Mark Perrow reports from Oakwell
- Last-gasp equaliser denies Johnson winning return to Barnsley
- City trail to Watkins' first-half header before Fielding saves Winnall penalty
- Tomlin and Abraham fire visitors in front before late Hammill heartbreaker
Lee Johnson was denied a winning return to former club Barnsley by Adam Hammill’s last-gasp equaliser at Oakwell.
Trailing to Marley Watkins’ first-half header, the visitors had goalkeeper Frank Fielding to thank for saving a Sam Winnall penalty on the stroke of half-time.
The second period was a more open affair in which both teams created chances, as City drew level through Lee Tomlin’s penalty before the same man set up Tammy Abraham for what looked like being the winner.
But just as the fourth official raised his board to signal four added minutes, substitute Hammill found the bottom corner to kill City’s hopes of back-to-back league wins.
Johnson made two changes to his last league line-up, including a first start of the season in the Sky Bet Championship for Aaron Wilbraham.
Bobby Reid also returned, having missed the Blackburn Rovers victory – in which Wilbraham came off the bench to hit the winner – with a dead leg.
Jamie Paterson and Luke Freeman were the unlucky pair to miss out, with the latter sidelined by an ankle injury, while Callum O’Dowda fell victim to illness, leaving City to field a narrow midfield four.
Straight from the off it had the feel of two teams very much in the Johnson mould as both sides traded attacks.
Ryan Kent skipped past Korey Smith and delivered a low cross that took an important touch off Aden Flint to elude the sliding Winnall, before Tomlin fell just inside the box as penalty appeals to fall on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, Abraham was coming into the game on a four-match goal drought, but looked to be enjoying sharing the load in attack when put through by Wilbraham, only for Adam Jackson to chase back and intervene with a crucial sliding tackle.
But it was only after the contest lost some its early spark that the hosts took the lead.
Left-back Andy Yiadom reached an advanced position down the Barnsley left and produced a deep cross met by Watkins
, whose powerful downward header bounced up into the roof of the net to beat Fielding.
The home fans were buoyant at the expense of their team’s former boss, and Watkins had them on their feet again with a bursting run from deep that just lacked a calm head as he dragged the chance wide.
The Tykes’ momentum stalled when they lost top scorer Winnall to a head injury in the first half, leaving the home side with ten men for six minutes as their skipper received treatment.
In that time, with Wilbraham by now booked for disputing a decision, City recovered their composure.
Abraham glanced wide Adam Matthews’ cross and, with the numbers evened up again, Tomlin sent a curling free kick only fractionally past the post.
A stop-start half left City with five minutes of additional time to draw level, but instead it was Barnsley who came closest to troubling the scorers.
Adam Armstrong forced a save with a rare shot on target, as Fielding stooped to parry his effort before debutant Josh Kay fired over from long range.
City were well and truly on the ropes when Scott Golbourne was penalised for bringing down Winnall, who stepped up to take the spot-kick himself only to be denied by Fielding, who dived to his left and blocked with his legs after the penalty was struck hard and low but not close enough to the corner.
Only time would tell the significance of that save, but what followed was a second period with far more goalmouth action.
The dangerous Kent produced one of numerous set-pieces, with Fielding sent tumbling before defender Angus MacDonald fired the rebound over with no free kick given in between.
But City were handed a route back into the game – quite literally – when Adam Jackson’s outstretched arm stopped a Golbourne cross, leaving referee Geoff Eltringham with no option but to award a second penalty of the day.
Up stepped Tomlin
, who missed his last one at Sheffield Wednesday, but there would be no such difficulty this time as City’s magic man sent his kick straight down the middle.
Still Barnsley kept coming. Armstrong rattled the bar from 25 yards with a stunning effort, before Fielding made important saves from Watkins and Yiadom.
Johnson responded with a double change midway through the second half, with Taylor Moore and Joe Bryan replacing Golbourne and Reid as City switched to 3-5-2.
Bryan was straight into the thick of the action, sending a deflected shot only inches wide, before his right-footed cross was met by Wilbraham with a header seemingly destined for the bottom corner only for Adam Davies to somehow claw it out, tipping the ball on to the post with a quite brilliant save.
But now City were the team firmly in the ascendancy and turned the game on its head with just 13 minutes left.
The man at the heart of it was Tomlin, who embarked on a driving run at the Barnsley defence, faking to shoot before finding himself in prime position to do so.
But rarely does City’s number ten do the obvious thing and this was no exception. Instead of going alone to finish off a second solo goal in five days, his disguised pass to Abraham
offered Johnson’s top scorer the chance to take his tally to 12 for the season with a scuffed shot to wrongfoot Davies.
With victory in sight, it was left to one of Johnson’s former players to kill his hopes of a winning return, as Hammill
darted in from the left flank and dispatched an unerring low shot into the far corner.