Stoke fell to a disappointing defeat at Oakwell as Barnsley continue to move ever closer to the play-off spots.
Stoke entered the fixture in much better form than they had been a week before, with vital home wins against Sheffield Wednesday and Luton in their previous two.
Michael O’Neill was hit with some injury doubts from that Luton game, with Sam Clucas, James McClean and Rabbi Matondo all missing out against Barnsley.
The Stoke boss made one change to his previous team, as John Obi-Mikel replaced Joe Allen and took the Potters’ captaincy in the Welshman’s absence.
He also found space on his bench for youth team defender Will Forrester and striker Christian Norton.
— Stoke City FC (@stokecity) February 24, 2021
Similar to their visitors, Barnsley had been in great recent form with three wins out of three in recent weeks, and just one defeat in seven.
Their form had shocked many, after only surviving by the skin of their teeth in the last campaign.
Valerien Ismael’s players had the added incentive of going above their opponents with a win, with both teams sitting on 45 points in ninth and tenth respectively, heading into the matchup.
The boss made three changes from a 1-0 victory at Bristol City, as Sibbick, Morris and Frieser came in for Sollbauer, Chaplin and Dike.
The last fixture between the two at Oakwell in November 2019 was a momentous occasion for Michael O’Neill, as the Potters recorded a 4-2 victory in his first game in charge.
The game began in disjointed fashion as expected, with both teams trying to gain a foothold of the ball.
Barnsley looked the most likely to score in the opening minutes, and within the first eight they had found a lead.
A poor corner was conceded and then not cleared well enough, with Callum Styles picking the ball up on just outside the box and firing a shot past the hapless Gunn in the Stoke net.
A stunning strike and a dream start for the Tykes in a big game in the race for playoff spots.
Danny Batth had the game’s next chance on 13 minutes, but his free header was poor and well over the bar.
As the 20-minute mark came, Stoke began to enjoy the bulk of possession, but they had no real chances to show for their spell on the ball.
The chances then began to fall the way of the home side yet again but Alex Mowatt’s snapshot from the edge of the area was easy enough for Gunn on 22 minutes.
The hosts had the ball in the net on 32 minutes after Frieser sneaked in and chipped the ball over Gunn.
The winger was deemed to be offside as the ball was played to him though, and the score remained 1-0.
Minutes later, a dangerous corner from Jordan Thompson fell Harry Souttar’s way and the Australian international fired over from close range.
Steven Fletcher then blazed over Stoke’s best chance of the game upto that point, but it would not have counted even if he had put the ball in after he strayed offside.
Tommy Smith had a speculative effort from outside the box just before the 45 were up, his shot was easily held by keeper Collins.
Half time: Barnsley 1-0 Stoke City
The first half was a game of few chances, but the hosts had taken an early one and then looked solid all over since the goal.
Stoke were struggling to get the ball down, and star men Powell and Fletcher were largely ineffective in the first period.
The visitors needed a lot more from all eleven players if they were to take the incentive and get the next goal.
Just four minutes into the second half and O’Neill made his first substitutions of the game with Fletcher and Thompson off, Vokes and Allen on. Some very peculiar changes on paper.
Stoke continued to look largely off the pace, and neither side could fashion a big chance in the first fifteen minutes of the second period.
The game had become a long-ball fest, and it didn’t make for great viewing at all.
The first real big chance of the half came on 77 minutes, as Styles’ dangerous cross was nearly turned home by substitute Daryl Dike – but Batth blocked the shot and hooked it away for a corner.
A throw in on 85 minutes summed up the Potters game, as Norrington-Davies bounced the ball back to Souttar, and the big defender had no other option but to hoof the ball aimlessly upfield into Collins’ arms.
Souttar then made a heroic block at the other end, after Chaplin’s cross was destined for Dike to turn home.
The American then got his goal as the clock ticked into the 90 minutes, his first for the Tykes and first in English football.
He was found by a threaded ball through the Stoke defence, and slotted the ball under Gunn to seal the victory at 2-0.
Tensions rose in the final minutes and Powell was booked for his role in a fracas with Helik.
Stoke played some lofted balls into the box in the final seconds, but it was to no avail.
Full time: Barnsley 2-0 Stoke City
MOTM: Callum Styles – great goal that set the tone for a huge victory for his side
Job done for the Tykes, and it was a relatively easy one at that.
Stoke gave a poor account of themselves in all areas of the pitch, and never looked like scoring at all in the 95 minutes of play.
Michael O’Neill will wonder where it went wrong for his players after a similar 11 had convincingly won their two previous games.
The Potters playoff dream looks like more of a fantasy as every week passes, with their inconsistency a real hindrance.
Valerien Ismael will be proud of his men after they kept going right until the last, and got the win they deserved.
Barnsley will probably feel like they could have had more, as they too were quite wasteful in front of goal.
The result pushes the Tykes into seventh place before others around them play, whilst Stoke drop one place to 10th.
Stoke face a trip Brentford next, whilst Barnsley are to take on Millwall.
Match report by Oliver Walton.