After our 2-0 victory against Blackburn, we travel to Yorkshire to take on 18th-placed Barnsley as 13/8 underdogs. Two changes are made, with Michel and Jonny Hayes taking their regular starting spots back from Ryan Mason and Federico Cenci respectively. As Cenci and Mason both scored in our 2-0 victory over Blackburn, there’s pressure on Hayes and Michel to perform. In the 3rd minute, Michel slides in Hayes, who finishes from 8 yards for his 14th goal of the season to silence the majority of the 14,921 in attendance. Phew, changes justified! Despite having little to play for, Barnsley hit back in the 8th minute when Vaz Te crosses from the right and Wordsworth makes no mistake with a header from 6 yards. Three minutes later, Ramou enters the referee’s notebook for a foul on Varga. Michel is orchestrating the play and in the 16th minute, he plays in Varga, who shoots wide from 16 yards. Despite the entertaining start, that concludes the action of note in the first half.
Two minutes into the second half, Michel slides in Michele Marconi and he makes no mistake from 12 yards to register his 24th goal of the season as we take the lead again. Hopefully it won’t be like our game against Peterborough when they were able to peg us back twice. Bradley Johnson enters the book in the 55th minute for a foul on Vaz Te. Two minutes after Johnson’s booking, Varga crosses from the left and finds Michel, who passes in his 8th goal of the season from 12 yards to extend our lead. With the points seemingly wrapped up, Cenci and Jay Spearing come on for Michel and Johnson respectively. Butorac goes close for the hosts in the 75th minute, but his shot from 8 yards goes wide, with Goodwillie going wide from double the distance 3 minutes later. Ten minutes from time, Marconi goes off injured and Aiman Mustafa replaces him. In the second minute of stoppage time, Varga crosses from the left and finds the head of Hayes at the far post – Hayes puts the exclamation mark on the victory with a header from 8 yards for his 2nd of the game and 15th of the season. Michel is names Man of the Match with a rating of 9.1, a goal and 2 assists.
The three points means that we stay 4th and are guaranteed a play-off place with a game to go. Newcastle join us in being guaranteed a play-off place, whilst at the other end of the table, Swansea are relegated. However, it’s not all good news for us as the physio reports back on Marconi; it’s a torn calf muscle and he’ll be out for 4-5 months. Catalin Rentea does return to full training though. Muamar Tankovic returns from his lean spell at Bournemouth and Daniel Paxton returns from his loan at Crewe. Jonny Hayes and Michel both feature in Team of the Week, whilst the end of the month sees awards being made: Jay Rodriguez of Watford is Player of the Month, Souleymane Coulibaly of West Bromwich Albion is Young Player of the Month and Derek McInnes of West Bromwich Albion is Manager of the Month. We do claim a couple of seconds, with Gennaro Riccardi coming second in the Young Player of the Month award and I’m behind McInnes for Manager of the Month. In League 2, Rob McNally (on loan at Morecambe) is named Young Player of the Month.