Football: Fatigue undermines Barnsley's noble pursuit of survival

Barnsley 2 Everton 2
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"It's still been a good week," insisted Danny Wilson after two precious points had got away. Maybe, but it could have been a very great deal better.

The confidence and self-belief that Wilson detected in his side's midweek FA Cup victory over Spurs was carried over into a vibrant display against Everton, only for their good work to be undone by some bad luck and a couple of defensive foibles.

A win at Oakwell and results elsewhere going in their favour could have lifted Barnsley out of the bottom three for the first time since the season was in its infancy. Although the clock is ticking down, Wilson still believes that his players are capable of avoiding what has for so long looked inevitable.

There were signs for much of this match that there is some substance to that belief. Barnsley certainly did not look like a side resigned to sliding back quietly into their relative obscurity - and their defiance was exemplified by Ashley Ward.

Not exactly the silkiest of strikers, Ward has nevertheless proved to be one of the more inspired signings of the season, his vigour and energy setting the tone for those around him.

For more than an hour on Saturday, Ward was at his tireless best, chasing everything and straining Everton's defence with his willingness to chase the most lost of causes. He was one of several who were understandably weary by the end, as Wednesday's efforts caught up with them and Everton looked increasingly likely to outlast them.

"In the end, we were glad to get something out of the match," said Wilson. "To get a point from a team of Everton's calibre shows the progress we have made."

Everton's recent away form does indeed make them a challenging proposition, even if they were not at their best at Oakwell.

Nicky Barmby's run of improved form was interrupted by a groin strain that is likely to keep him out of the England B team tomorrow and Duncan Ferguson only sporadically put Barnsley's defence under pressure.

Left unmarked once, however, he headed the goal that brought Everton level. Their second goal, a speculative punt from Tony Grant that found a corner of the net, was also the product of a loss of concentration at the back.

Wilson might declare himself satisfied overall, but Barnsley need to grab every point that is available. On Saturday, they failed to do that - and it could cost them dear in the final analysis.

Barnsley (3-4-1-2): Watson; De Zeeuw, Moses, Morgan (Hristov, 86); Eaden, Bosancic, Redfearn, Barnard; Bullock; Ward, Fjortoft (Hendrie, 61). Substitutes not used: Tinkler, Markstedt, Leese (gk).

Everton (3-4-1-2): Myhre; Short, Watson, Ball; O'Kane (Oster, 82), Grant, Farrelly, Ward; Barmby (Thomsen h/t); Madar (Cadamarteri 61), Ferguson. Substitutes not used: Allen, Gerrard (gk).

Referee: M.Bodenham (West Sussex).

Bookings: Barnsley: Moses, Bullock.

Man of the match: A Ward.

Attendance: 18,672.