Barnsley returned to winning ways as Cauley Woodrow’s fifth penalty of the season earned them the three points at home to Wycombe Wanderers.
Callum Styles’ low finish put the Reds ahead in a comfortable first half, but Wycombe came out firing after the break and Garath McCleary won a spot-kick which Joe Jacobson dispatched.
McCleary’s fortunes soon turned though, as he gave away the penalty at the other end which allowed Woodrow to be the match-winner and keeps Gareth Ainsworth’s side in the relegation zone.
Story of the match
Barnsley were enjoying most of the ball from the start but were slow to motor in attack, with early chances only leading to tame efforts from Cauley Woodrow and Matty James.
Alex Mowatt also had a strike easily saved, while Callum Brittain fired wide after advancing into the box and Michael Sollbauer couldn’t turn in a scuffed Conor Chaplin volley.
A moment of quality was required, and Styles provided it. Brittain’s cross-field ball was allowed to travel across to his opposite wing-back, who was allowed time to control it, move into the area, line up a strike and thump an excellent low finish across Ryan Allsop and into the corner.
The only threat that Wycombe were carrying was from set pieces, with ex-Red Jason McCarthy testing Jack Walton with deliveries into the six-yard box.
That avenue finally drew a save at the start of the second half, with the goalkeeper stretching to claw away David Wheeler’s near-post header with his fingertips.
That first chance was no flash in the pan though, as they proved just a couple of minutes later. McCleary controlled a ball just inside the box, and Aapo Halme was found on the wrong side and clumsily collided. Referee Geoff Eltringham pointed to the spot, and Jacobson converted for his first Championship goal.
Halme had the chance for swift redemption from a James corner, but having been found free he placed his effort wide. Instead, another penalty would shift the direction of the game again.
Thomas found in space down the right and cut inside into traffic in the box. Catching the leg of McCleary, the winger went down and another spot-kick was called, and Woodrow fired beyond the dive of Allsop.
Wycombe’s best chance for a response came when a deep free-kick was chested down by Adebayo Akinfenwa, presenting a glorious opening which defender Josh Knight couldn’t convert.
Otherwise, Barnsley looked the more likely side to add a fourth goal of the game, with Styles placing an awkward volley over the bar and Allsop making saves to keep out Dominik Frieser’s blast and Herbie Kane’s free-kick.
Reds can win ugly
Barnsley are never going to dictate a game – they don’t want to – but they do want to press high and play quickly to catch more illustrious opponents off-guard.
They were in the rare position of being favourites here, and were allowed more of the ball while, in defence, having to deal with a physical onslaught in the air from Wycombe.
Their backline stood up to the challenge and limited the visitors to only a couple of big chances in the game, while in attack they showed they could break down a tight defence who sat deep.
Width was key, with the full-backs combining for the first goal and winger Thomas catching out the defence to win the penalty which settled the contest.
It’s no secret that this is a Wycombe side that heralds the workmanlike over the spectacular, but it was the telling difference in this match.
Even a Barnsley side with one of the division’s smaller budgets has plenty of players able to turn a match with one piece of invention and skill, but Wycombe seem to be found wanting.
After their initial losing run they have picked up some very sold results, but four draws in the five heading into this contest were points dropped rather than gained as they failed to conjure up the winning moment.
The penalty here pretty much came out of the blue with a collision on the edge of the box, and Jacobson’s conversion was just a fourth goal in seventh games. Without more invention, their battle will eventually be a losing one.
Man of the match: Callum Brittain (Barnsley)
Both of Barnsley's wing-backs put in accomplished displays, with Styles adding another goal to his tally and Brittain providing a constant threat attacking from the right.