Valerien Ismael’s return to a foggy Oakwell was his first meeting with Barnsley since leaving for West Bromwich at the end of last seasonValerien Ismael’s West Bromwich Albion failed in their bid to draw level with second-placed Bournemouth as they were once again denied victory by Barnsley on a bogey ground where they have not won in 74 years.
On his first return to a foggy Oakwell since leaving to join Albion in May, Ismael’s men were the better side but were denied by a combination of the woodwork and some heroic defending.
West Brom remain third in the Championship – but, after a week in which Chinese owner Guochuan Lai made his first visit to the club in three years, they now know more than ever that they need to strengthen up front in January after failing to score in four of their past six games.
Instead, it was Ismael’s former club who had more to celebrate as new Barnsley boss Poya Asbaghi eked out a third draw in four games – to edge within seven points of safety.
Barnsley v Albion: As it happenedAlbion had the best two chances to score before the break, the first of them from Cedric Kipre in only the fifth minute.
Barnsley old boy Alex Mowatt – Ismael’s first Albion signing – curled in a left-foot free-kick from the right, from which the loosely marked Kipre powered a firm header against the right post.
Then Jordan Hugill should have done better from Conor Townsend’s pull-back, but Callum Brittain blocked his low side-foot finish.
The hosts did cause one moment of alarm when Josh Benson tried his luck from long range with a Cristiano Ronaldo-style right-foot free-kick, which would have dipped just under the bar had Albion goalkeeper Sam Johnstone not turned it over.
Albion have now not won in 19 league visits to Barnsley since their last victory there back in August 1947But Albion went close again after the break when Callum Robinson’s close-range deflected shot on the turn was shovelled wide by home keeper Brad Collins.
Then Albion top scorer Karlan Grant was somehow thwarted by home defender Michal Helik’s boot at the near post at full stretch from an angle, after he had circumvented Collins.
Grady Diangana and Darnell Furlong also opened up the Tykes as a low cross flew untouched across the face of goal, before Matt Clarke’s header was deflected onto the top of the net.
And, in a game of four bookings, three of them to the visitors, other referees might have – on less foggy nights – viewed Heilk’s high, late challenge on Hugill as a red card.
But, on such a grim, gloomy evening in South Yorkshire, it needed something special to break down a well marshalled Barnsley rearguard – and Albion did not have it.
They may now fall further behind the top two if Bournemouth, two points better off than the Baggies overnight, can win at Middlesbrough on Saturday lunchtime – and leaders Fulham, a further two points ahead, win at home to Sheffield United on Monday.
Who’s next?Subject to any further loss of fixtures in light of the escalating threat from the Covid-19 pandemic, both sides do not appear again until the Christmas fixtures, when Barnsley host Stoke City on 26 December, before Albion are due to visit Derby County the following day.
Barnsley boss Poya Asbaghi told BBC Radio Sheffield:
“We did enough to take a point at least. But, in the challenge we are in, it is not enough just giving 100%.
“We have to be braver. We need to develop our offence, as well a defensive structure that gives you confidence.
“I’m proud of the fighting spirit and the hard defensive work against tough physical opponents.
“There were moments when I felt it was like a battlefield out there but my players acted like soldiers and were prepared to take the fight.”
West Brom boss Valerien Ismael told BBC Radio WM:
“We are very strong defensively. We kept another clean sheet but we need more quality in front of goal.
“We need to have that killer instinct to change the destiny of a game. Players have to take responsibility in the final third. We need to put the ball behind the line.
“It is half-time, 23 games. We are still in a good position. But this was a confirmation of what we have known for weeks that the first thing we have to do is something about is with the front three.
“From a strategic point of view, it is always easier to get players in as quickly as possible and not wait until the last minute.”
40Collins30HelikBooked at 90mins6Andersen5Kitching2Williams17Gomes10BensonSubstituted forColeat 64’minutes7Brittain4Styles11Leya IsekaSubstituted forOduorat 84’minutes14MorrisSubstitutes1Walton15Moon22Oduor23Hondermarck26Vita29Adeboyejo44ColeWest BromFormation 3-4-2-1
1Johnstone21Kipré5Bartley16Clarke2Furlong8LivermoreBooked at 52minsSubstituted forMolumbyat 72’minutesBooked at 90mins27Mowatt3TownsendBooked at 70mins7RobinsonSubstituted forDianganaat 72’minutes18Grant17HugillSubstituted forReachat 90+3’minutesSubstitutes6Ajayi11Diangana14Molumby20Reach25Button29Gardner-Hickman41FellowsLive TextMatch ends, Barnsley 0, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Second Half ends, Barnsley 0, West Bromwich Albion 0.
Attempt blocked. Kyle Bartley (West Bromwich Albion) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.
Corner, West Bromwich Albion. Conceded by Jordan Williams.
Attempt missed. Kyle Bartley (West Bromwich Albion) right footed shot from outside the box is too high following a set piece situation.
Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Clarke Oduor (Barnsley).
Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion).
Claudio Gomes (Barnsley) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Substitution, West Bromwich Albion. Adam Reach replaces Jordan Hugill because of an injury.
Michal Helik (Barnsley) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Jordan Hugill (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Michal Helik (Barnsley).
Foul by Alex Mowatt (West Bromwich Albion).
Clarke Oduor (Barnsley) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Offside, West Bromwich Albion. Jayson Molumby tries a through ball, but Karlan Grant is caught offside.
Attempt missed. Matthew Clarke (West Bromwich Albion) header from the left side of the six yard box is just a bit too high following a set piece situation.
Darnell Furlong (West Bromwich Albion) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Carlton Morris (Barnsley).