Halme strikes late to salvage point for Barnsley

A late goal by Barnsley substitute Aapo Halme saw the Tykes salvage an important point at Luton in the battle of the Championship’s bottom two teams.

The draw leaves Luton at the foot of the table on 41 points, with Barnsley a single point better off – and now just three behind Hull in 21st.

The Tykes threatened first, Conor Chaplin’s header forcing Simon Sluga to tip over the bar early on, while Cauley Woodrow flicked the ensuing corner into the side-netting.

Luton and Barnsley remain in the Championship relegation zone after the draw at Kenilworth Road
Luton and Barnsley remain in the Championship relegation zone after the draw at Kenilworth Road

Sluga was then called into action again moments later as Barnsley broke well and he diverted Jacob Brown’s fierce drive over the bar.

Luton then went close themselves, Danny Hylton’s downward header from Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu’s cross claimed by visiting ‘keeper Jack Walton before it had the chance to creep in.

The hosts took the lead in the 13th minute as a lovely move on Luton’s right saw James Bree find Hylton, who played in Elliot Lee.

The attacker’s low shot hit the outside of the post where Luke Berry hammered the rebound into the top corner against his former club.

Barnsley pressed hard for a leveller, with Alex Mowatt’s free-kick hitting the wall, while Chaplin sliced a volley over from close range on his left foot and Woodrow’s effort was deflected behind by Sonny Bradley.

Still the visitors pressed, though, with Woodrow calling Sluga into action – the ‘keeper turning his shot away and then producing a stunning save as the striker’s looping header looked like it was going to drop in, palming it against the crossbar and away.

After the break, Andrew Shinnie replaced Lee, and his dangerous cross just eluded Town’s forwards, while Brown whistled an attempt over for the visitors.

Berry’s free-kick could not beat the wall, while the midfielder then went close once more from James Collins’ clever hold-up play, his drive from the edge of the box not missing the bottom corner by much.

Barnsley were struggling to replicate the heights of their first-half play as an attacking force, with Brown’s tame effort easy for Luton stopper Sluga to gather.

However, they found a second wind thanks to some inspired substitutions by boss Gerhard Struber, one leading to the leveller in the 84th minute, when Halme fired home with his first touch after a disputed corner was not cleared.

Brown’s effort deflected just wide, while Luton should have won it with three minutes to go, Harry Cornick going clean through on goal but failing to beat ‘keeper Walton who rushed out to save well with his legs.

Mowatt’s long-range shot was gathered by Sluga as although both sides threw men forward in search of a winner at the death, they had to settle for a point which leaves basement club Luton one point behind Barnsley.

What the managers said…

Luton’s Nathan Jones: “I’m disappointed because of the lateness of their goal and how it came about, because I couldn’t see them scoring. You always fear the worst as a manager but I couldn’t see them scoring, I really couldn’t.

“First half we gave them a little bit too much space and we didn’t get close enough to them to meet balls in our box, but in the second half I thought we were excellent. Tactically we were really good, it’s just late on, it came from a corner, that’s the really frustrating thing.

“And then having the best chance of the game straight after to win it, you’re just frustrated then. You want to hold out and make sure you win the game, I thought we were a lot better in the second half and just disappointed that we didn’t hold out.”

Barnsley’s Gerhard Struber: “I told my boys in the dressing room, we have to fight until the last game. We have to pick up points, today our big goal was three points, but we got one point and our next game is a difficult opposition, but if we have this performance, we can do it.

“I think the boys showed me, we never gave up, we had very good energy from everyone. The first half was completely in our hands and this is the right mood in this situation, never give up, fight until the last game. Today we’re disappointed that we didn’t use the best chances for us, but still it’s one point.”

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