Reds love the opening day of the season!
We have never lost the first match as a Football League club and our 100% record in League One openers continued at Oakwell where Crawley were good value for their 1-0 win against relegated Barnsley.
The Tykes lost Dale Jennings to a straight red midway through the second half and Reds made their advantage count with nine minutes to go when Izale McLeod headed home Conor Henderson’s corner to the delight of the 215 Crawley fans in a crowd of 10,105.
There were no fewer than eight debutants in John Gregory’s starting XI but although he had recovered from his hamstring strain, Gavin Tomlin had to settle on the bench.
Barnsley had seven new signings in their starting line-up and with so many new faces on both sides the first half, although never short of endeavour from both teams, often had a dis-jointed look.
But it was Reds who were the more threatening. After just three minutes McLeod surged down the left and into the box and when his free-kick was partially cleared, Jimmy Smith hit a 25-yarder just over.
Crawley nearly caught the hosts napping on 15 minutes from a quickly taken free-kick. Both Josh Simpson and Lewis Young had shots blocked before the danger was cleared.
Barnsley’s Danny Rose was booked midway through the half for handball and he was followed on the half-hour by Young, for a foul.
Reds were inches from breaking the deadlock after 37 minutes when Simpson finished off a counter-attack with a low drive from the edge of the box which hit the right-hand post with Adam Davies beaten.
Brian Jensen’s handling until then had been exemplary and when he was called upon to make a save he was up to the task. Four minutes before the break Dale Jennings cut in from the left and fired one towards the top corner but Jensen got across and pushed it away with an outstretched left hand.
Simpson went close again just before the break when it took a brilliant tackle by Joe Dudgeon in the six-yard box to prevent him from getting a decisive touch to Gwion Edwards’ cross.
The skipper was injured in the process and needed lengthy treatment before hobbling back on at the end of a half which saw Smith booked for a foul on Reece Brown.
Simpson’s injury was too bad to enable him to continue which meant a debut for Bobson Bawling at the break.
Jensen was the busier keeper at the start of the second half, saving twice from Sam Winnall before Jennings headed Martin Crainie’s cross over on 58 minutes.
The game crackled into life after 65 minutes when Jennings was shown a red card after a coming-together with Edwards, who was booked. It looked harsh and referee Simpson may have been advised by his assistant before making the decision.
It gave the home crowd a cause to rally around and Jensen made a diving stop to keep out Hourihane’s drive moments after Bawling had fired wide following good work by Dean Leacock after Barnsley half-cleared a corner.
But with nine minutes left Reds broke the deadlock when McLEOD rose to meet Conor Henderson’s corner from the right with a thumping header that gave Davies no chance.
Reds saw out the remaining time reasonably comfortably although Lewin Nyatanga saw his header from a late corner hacked clear before James Bailey glanced his header wide as the hosts pushed for an unlikely leveller.
Reds: Jensen, Oyebanjo, Leacock, Walsh, Dickson; Young (Banya 58), Smith, Henderson, Edwards; Simpson (Bawling 45); McLeod. Unused subs: Spiegel, Bradley, Rose, Tomlin, O’Connor.