After Tuesday's disappointing loss at London Rd, having been ahead with 3 minutes to play, City were looking to bounce back against Barnsley at the CCS today.
With Miller back from injury, Malky chose to play the diminutive striker at the head of a 4-5-1 formation with the returning McPhail in the centre. Still at central defence were Hudson & Turner, needing to build on a fledgling partnership that had conceded six goals in the previous two games. Despite the somewhat conservative formation for a home match, City looked bright early doors, and took only 10 minutes to go ahead after Miller calmly slotted past Steele after a superb pass from Don Cowie. Soon after Miller had a glancing header superbly saved by Steele, and from the resulting corner with City looking in control, Miller was forced off after a clash with team mate Turner in the box. Much to the surprise of many, it was Mason not Earnshaw that replaced him. He immediately had an impact when running at the Barnsley defence he was hacked down just outside the area. Whittingham lined up the kick, and his powerful shot was parried only for Mason to react quickest. 2-0 City.
Almost immediately however the Tykes equalised, when former City loanee Dany Drinkwater's free kick was wickedly deflected past the helpless Marshall. But the Tykes jubilation lasted only a couple of minutes as City pressed again, with Mason influential, and the ball came to Gunnarsson who teed up a volley and rifled it past Steele who had no chance. 3-1 City at half time.
Barnsley made three subs at the start of the second half, but it made little difference, as City were in complete control, playing some sublime football.On the hour Mason played the pass of the game to put Cowie through, and after he rounded Steele and poked home it was 4-1. Gunnarsson then made it 5-1 on 71 minutes flicking home Taylor's cross. Barnsley looked long dead and buried, and had nothing to offer, and City fans were expecting every run forward to result in a goal. But a needless corner given away by Taylor's flicked header on 82minutes was nodded home almost in slow motion with City's defence static, and four minutes later, City were again all at sea as they failed to clear and Vaz Te fired home. So 5-3 from 5-1 up, and City were suddenly on the back foot and looked a bit rocky. But they held out, and the game finished with that scoreline.
For 90% of the game City were outstanding. The 4-5-1 formation worked superbly (until McPhail went off when it started to go a bit pear shaped), and although it could be argued that Barnsley were poor, it was because City controlled the game. Mason particularly was outstanding, and there were terrific performances from Cowie, Whittingham, McPhail and Gunnarsson.
It's probably not fair to pick holes when we've won, especially when we won so convincingly, but there are negatives, and Malky will surely want to sort these out. McNaughton is a fantastic defender - possibly one of the best right backs in the division, but his distribution is pants. In the first 30 minutes, every time he got the ball his final pass gave possession away. And at the back, although it could be argued that Hudosn & Turner are building a working relationship, they've presided over 9 goals being conceded in the last three matches, and that is just not good enough.
Still, three points and +2 goal difference from the match IS positive. Cut out the crap goals being given away, and City are a force to be reckoned with.