Bristol City ended our 13-game winless streak on the road with a nervy 3-2 victory at Barnsley.
Gary Johnson was true to his word and risked the wrath of supporters by bringing back his son Lee and Marvin Elliott in place of the in-form Cole Skuse and Paul Hartley, both of whom dropped to the bench.
There was also a place for skipper Louis Carey to take his spot in the starting XI ahead of Alvaro Saborio with Danny Haynes pushed up alongside Nicky Maynard as Johnson switched to a 3-5-2.
In the wet, greasy Yorkshire conditions, Barnsley were the ones forcing the early pace of the game. Defender Steve Foster worked Gerken before Icelandic midfielder Emil Hallfredsson drew a fingertip save from the ex-Colchester keeper with Iain Hume poised for a tap-in.
From the resultant corner, Tykes right-back Ryan Shotton missed a free header from a good position.
City, firmly on the back foot in the early stages, were forced into an enforced change on 19 as Bradley Orr took a whack to his calf. Cole Skuse stepped off the bench to take his place as a make shift right-wing back.
The introduction of Skuse seemed to kickstart City into life as Jamie McAllister forced Luke Steele into a smart save from his free-kick from out wide and five minutes later we found ourselves in front.
Nicky Maynard gambled on a Gerken punt up field and capitalised, as Darren Moore mis-timed his header completely to allow the City top-scorer to slot past Steele on 26.
It was scarcely deserved but the goal gave City impetus and even Louis Carey tried his luck from distance.
With half-time fast approaching, Skuse’s pass freed Danny Haynes down the right-hand channel. The quick striker used his pace to surge into the box and fire it back for Evander Sno, who was perfectly placed to slot home side-footed for his first goal in City colours (42).
City refreshingly continued to go for the jugular in the second period with Haynes’ pace causing all manner of problems in the slick conditions. He was denied a third early on by a fine save low down from Steele.
But it wasn’t all City as the Tykes saught a route back into the match.
One-time City target Anderson Da Silva released Andy Gray who forced Gerken to parry his shot away.
Shortly after, Maltese international Daniel Bogdanovic was allowed time to swivel on the edge of the area and fire his effort on target. Sadly for Gerken and City, the shot weaseled it’s way under the keeper’s body to give Barnsley a lifeline (62).
The Tykes threatened from distance with Da Silva trying his luck but the game was effectively over as a contest on 74 when Shotton was adjudged to have brought back Haynes in the box.
With the striker poised to pull the trigger inside the penalty area, Shotton was given his marching orders for a professional foul and a penalty was awarded.
Surprisingly, Jamie McAllister stepped forward to take it but saw his pen palmed away by Steele only for Marvin Elliott to prod home his first of the season.
Gavin Williams, on for Evander Sno by this point, was inches away from firing a fourth as his 25-yard shot whistled past the post while Bogdanovic saw his effort deflected wide at the other end.
Former Liverpool youngster Adam Hammill curled home a sublime stoppage time effort into the top corner from the edge of the box to briefly raise Barnsley spirits but City held on for the win, extending our unbeaten run to five games and lifting us into fifth spot in Championship.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Steele; Shotton, Foster, Moore, Dickinson; Campbell-Ryce (Da Silva 53), Collace (Butterfield 64), Hallfredsson, Hammill; Hume (Bogdanovic 45), Gray.
CITY (3-5-2): Gerken; Carey, McCombe, Nyatanga; Orr (Skuse 19), Sno (Williams 84), Johnson, Elliott, McAllister; Maynard, Haynes (Saborio 88).
REFEREE: Andy Haines (Tyne and Wear)
Dean Gerken 4
Not his best game with a howler for the Tykes’ first goal which inexeplicably went through his legs. Otherwise sound though.
Bradley Orr 5
Subbed on 19 minutes in which Barnsley could’ve been 3 or 4 up.
Jamie McAllister 6
Didn’t get forward as well as Skuse did when he came on but was defensively sound and did a good job with the occasional set piece.
Lewin Nyatanga 7
Another solid but unassuming display, this time on the left of the back three. Growing in stature with every game.
Jamie McCombe 6
Better performance from Boom Boom who looked like he revelled in not coming up against any genuine pace on this occasion.
Louis Carey 7
Another stoic performance by the captain after being restored to the starting line-up. Organisation and leadership of the backline was as good as ever.
Lee Johnson 6
Played quite well today actually but nearly cocked things up for us first half mind where he sold Nyatanga short though. Surprise selection at the expense of Paul Hartley.
Marvin Elliott 7
Best game he’s had this season aided by his first goal this year. Hopefully will give him the confidence to hit the heights of 07/08 again.
Evander Sno 7
Quality was capped by his first goal as Barnsley struggled to contain him, although sometimes his final and first touches went a bit astray.
Nicky Maynard 7
Took his goal clinically when we were on the back foot early in the first half and was a constant menace to a poor Barnsley back line.
Danny Haynes 8
Direct, quick performance from the ex-Ipswich man who narrowly fended off Skuse and Sno for today’s MOTM award.
Cole Skuse 8
Was extremely surprised to have seen him omitted from the starting XI but he looked really accostumed at right-wing back. Got forward to much better effect than Orr usually does.
Gavin Williams 6
Another interesting little cameo from the Welshman who was unfortunate not to see a long ranger hit the back of the net late on.
No time to make an impression as an 88th minute sub.
GARY JOHNSON – 7/10
Really risked the wrath of the fans by gambling with the exclusion of our two best players (Skuse and Hartley) but it came off this time. I do wonder though if he’ll deploy this rotaional policy when Sheff Weds hit town next weekend.
MARK ROBINS – 6/10
Had his side up for it from the start and an early goal in that opening 20 minute period would’ve made for a different game. Defensively though his side were at 6’s and 7’s and he’ll need that to improve if his side are to avoid the drop.
Away Day Voodoo Finally Ends!
Before today’s win, our away-day jinx stretched back to 21st February when we won 2-0 at Reading and the longer that run went on, the more of a noose around our necks it became.
We rode our luck in opening 20 minutes but cashed in when we got our noses in front with Haynes standing out.
Hopefully this much-needed win on the road will give us more confidence to take into tougher trips to Forest and West Brom over the next few weeks.