Report: Albion 1 Barnsley 2Albion’s six game unbeaten run came to an end with a surprise defeat against basement boys Barnsley.
The visitors came into the game managerless following the sacking of David Fitcroft on Saturday night, but they stormed into a 2-0 lead with goals in either half from Paddy McCourt and Jacob Mellis, before Matthew Upson handed Albion a 63rd minute lifeline.
Oscar Garcia’s men then threw everything at the visitors but even with seven minutes of added on time, the Tykes held on for all three points.
While Albion dominated possession in the opening stages, their only effort at goal came from David Lopez, who dragged his shot well wide of the target.
Craig Conway got much closer in the 20th minute when he cut in from the right flank and left fly from 20 yards, only to see Barnsley keeper Jack Butland tip his effort onto the bar.
It was a fine effort to lift the crowd on a bitterly cold night at the Amex; it also spurred the visitors into action as they enjoyed their own spells of possession, if not troubling the Albion defence.
Crystal Palace loanee Peter Ramage was booked for scything down Conway but the hosts couldn’t take advantage of David’s in-swinging free-kick into the box.
Barnsley’s first effort at goal came from Mellis, which troubled the back row of the North Stand rather than Tomasz Kuszczak, but the Albion keeper was picking the ball out of his net on 35 minutes when McCourt drove into the box and played a neat one-two with Marcus Tudgay before slotting home.
Will Buckley came on for Jake Forster-Caskey at half-time to add further pace into the side, but Albion fell further behind five minutes after the restart when Mellis latched onto a Tudgay pass before firing into the roof of the net from an acute angle.
Buckley almost got Albion back in the game in the 62nd minute when his cushioned volley from a Conway centre was saved by Butland, but from the Scotsman’s resulting corner Upson made no mistake, rising highest to power his header home.
Ashley Barnes missed an opportunity to equalise moments later, slicing his close-range effort wide of the target, but with Albion in the ascendancy the game was halted when referee James Linnington was replaced by fourth official Charles Brakespear.
Barnes headed wide at the far post from sub Kemy Agustien’s inviting cross while he also tried his luck with a speculative overhead kick after Ramage had sliced his clearance. It was his last input into the game, as he was replaced in the 81st minute by Leroy Lita.
Buckley missed a golden opportunity to salvage a point when he beat the offside then turned Ramage inside out, but his shot was saved from close-range by the England U21 keeper.
Gordon Greer also headed a Conway centre over the bar but the final whistle was greeted by frustration, both in the stands and on the pitch.