Dominant Baggies unable to convert possession into goals
ALBION were unable to convert a dominant display into a second pre-season win inside four days at Oakwell.
The Baggies enjoyed the lion’s share of possession, particularly during the first hour, and Ben Alnwick was the busier of the two keepers but the visitors were unable to carve open Barnsley’s well-drilled defence.
The closest Steve Clarke’s side came to breaking the deadlock was in the 66th minute, when Shane Long headed against the post from Jerome Thomas’ centre.
Zoltan Gera made his first start in eight months after recovering from an ankle injury and partnered Long, also in the XI for the first time this summer, in attack at Oakwell.
Ben Foster was granted his first appearance since rejoining Albion on a permanent basis after shaking off a couple of niggling injuries. In a late change to the squad, Kemar Roofe replaced Simon Cox.
With this friendly coming early in both teams’ preparations for the new campaign, it was no surprise that both sides looked a little rusty from the start.
It wasn’t until the fourth minute that either team mustered an effort at goal, when Graham Dorrans was well off target from James Morrison’s pull-back.
However, there was no questioning the Baggies’ work-rate, as they pressed Barnsley high up the pitch.
And a move of real quality, involving Gonzalo Jara Reyes, Gera and James Hurst in the 12th minute almost undid the Tykes, with makeshift right-midfielder Hurst dragging an 18-yard effort just wide of the far post.
Hurst won Albion a free-kick in a dangerous position three minutes later and Alnwick had to be at his best to keep out Dorrans’ right-foot curler.
Out of the blue, Barnsley, who finished one place above the Championship drop-zone last term, hit the Albion woodwork on 19. Foster spilled Jim O’Brien’s awkward low cross and skipper Jonas Olsson came to the Baggies’ rescue, deflecting Chris Dagnall’s close-range shot onto the outside of the right-hand post and out for a corner.
Normal service soon resumed in South Yorkshire as the visitors continued to enjoy plenty of possession in the Barnsley half.
There was little penetration to Albion’s attacks, though, and Gera resorted to a long-range shot on 29, which failed to trouble Alnwick’s goal.
Alnwick did have another save to make four minutes later when he showed a safe pair of hands to hold Jerome Thomas’ acute drive after the Baggies winger had cut into the box from the left.
The Barnsley No.29 was then called into action twice in quick succession.
On 38, Alnwick had to race out of his area and beat Long to Gera’s sublime through-ball in the nick of time. Moments later, he was well positioned to block and then gather Thomas’ fierce drive from the edge of the area.
Clarke made one change at half-time, with Yassine El Ghanassy coming on for Gera.
Albion were soon back on the attack after the break and Dorrans went close on 49 when it needed a fine save from Alnwick to keep out his stinging 20-yard drive.
The Baggies continued prodded and probing but got little change out of the Tykes’ well-organised rearguard.
However, they almost got the breakthrough on 66. Thomas clipped a cross into the heart of the Barnsley box and Long directed a free downward header off the foot of the far post.
A flurry of substitutions just past the hour-mark – including the entrance of former Spurs striker Mido – had breathed new life into Barnsley but they too struggled to trouble Foster.
But sub Matt Done had the home fans on their feet 13 minutes from time when he beat two Albion defenders and flashed a shot just wide from 15 yards.
At the other end, there was a scare for the hosts on 88 when sub David Perkins almost turned El Ghanassy’s left-wing cross into his own net.
BARNSLEY (4-3-3): Alnwick; Stones, S Foster, McNulty, Wiseman; Digby, Dawson, O’Brien; Mellis, Dagnall, Etuhu. Subs: Silva, Mido, Done, Perkins, Edwards, Martin, Trialist.
ALBION (4-4-1-1): B Foster; Jara Reyes, Tamas, Olsson (c), Jones; Hurst (Roofe 85), Morrison, Dorrans, Thomas (Allan 78); Gera (El Ghanassy HT); Long (Berahino 78). Subs not used: Myhill (gk), Gayle, Mantom, Thorne.
REFEREE: B Madley (West Yorkshire)
ALBION STARMAN: James Morrison.