By Tim Hodges at the Amex
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 Barnsley 0
The Albion overcame and energetic and well organised Barnsley this afternoon in front of another near-capacity Amex crowd.
Matt Sparrow was omitted from the squad. Alan Navarro made only his second league start of the season.
Ryan Harley kept his place and Billy Paynter started up front with Craig Mackail-Smith as Marcos Painter was also left out with Lewis Dunk returning.
With no league wins since Saturday 10 September and none at the Amex since the August bank holiday weekend, Albion quickly got into their stride against the Tykes.
Harley and Craig Noone worked well together from the outset, Harley having Albion’s first real chance after quarter of an hour when he drive a shot just wide.
Harley appeared to have been given a different role to the one he had at Watford last Tuesday and was more comfortable drifting out from a central position to support Noone.
As Albion continued to press Barnsley, Paynter got on the end of a Harley corner, but this effort was well wide.
To respond, Barnsley worried Albion when the impressive trio of David Perkins, Jacob Butterfield and Danny Drinkwater managed to string a succession of passes together.
Former Albion man Craig Davies was generally the end target when the Tykes utilised this passage of play.
At one point Butterfield’s high foot looked like it may have put Mauricio Taricco out of the game. It didn’t.
Noone, set free by Taricco, flashed a cross into the six-yard box which just eluded Paynter.
For all Albion’s pressure it was the visitors who had the first clear cut chance as Perkins rifled a shot against the bar, with Harper beaten all ends up.
Moments later Butterfield gave the ball a good kick and forced Harper into an unorthodox save. Almost on his knees he clawed the ball around the post.
Albion were a little rattled as Barnsley looked to work an opening.
Just as the Tykes looked to be getting on top Albion won a free kick on the right which was swung into the box by Noone.
Both Harley and Dunk helped it on but the ball eventually fell to Gordon Greer who smashed home his first ever Albion goal despite Jay McEveley’s last-ditch attempt to scramble it away.
Just before half time Harley blasted a free kick from the edge of the D way over the bar.
For the first time since Palace, Albion led at half time.
Both Davies and McEveley set out Barnsley’s stall with long shots early in the second half but it was Mackail-Smith, working hard for Albion, who caught the eye.
The Scottish international cleverly won the ball off ex-Seagull Jimmy McNulty, with a rebound, but was unable to make further use of his endeavour as none of the supporting players were alert enough.
This changed just before the hour when Liam Bridcutt played the ball forward and a superb header by Paynter sent Mackail-Smith away.
He burst into the area but his shot was deflected on to the bar by combination of Luke Steele and Scott Wiseman.
The Albion striker was first to the rebound although this again was blocked but only as far as Harley who smashed the ball home from just outside the six-yard box to double Albion’s lead.
Barnsley seemed shell-shocked and struggled to get back into the game.
Davies, who has had no luck in Brighton, was replaced by Ricardo Vaz Te as Barnsley started to launch the ball forward. This was, however, being lapped up by Greer and Dunk.
Ashley Barnes replaced Harley and sat behind the front two as Navarro was a calming influence and put his foot on the ball when necessary.
Will Buckley, coming back again from injury, replaced Noone. But the million-pound man again struggled to make an impact.
Paynter, who had started the match fairly deep and again foraging for the ball, seemed to benefit more when Albion put passes down the middle. The Leeds loanee tried a couple of decent efforts from distance.
Before the end Barnsley rallied a little. Butterfield hit a shot which was eventually cleared off the line by Greer and then forced Harper to make a great save down to his left, pawing the ball around the post.
Despite pushing Matty Done and Andy Gray further up front and some attempts to thread the ball through the middle, Barnsley never looked like troubling Albion and the Seagulls held on to record a well overdue home win.
In a nice touch at the end, ex-Albion defender McNulty gave his shirt to Albion kit man Ken Barnard.
Albion: Harper; Calderon, Greer, Dunk, Taricco; Bridcutt, Navarro, Harley; Noone, Paynter, Mackail-Smith. Subs: Ankergren, Vincelot, LuaLua, Buckley, Barnes.
Barnsley: Steele; Wiseman, Foster, McNulty, McEveley; Drinkwater, Addison; Perkins, Butterfield, Davies; Gray. Subs: Preece, Edwards, Doyle, Vaz Te, Done.
Referee: Kevin Wright (Cambridgeshire)
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