Barnsley 1 West Bromwich Albion 1
For those with a vested interest in the continued good health of Ronnie Wallwork, this was just the job.
On the sort of cold afternoon suited to scrappers like Wallwork, it was ironic that Barnsley's on-loan West Bromwich Albion midfielder should be at home watching a proven entertainer like Jason Koumas earn a share of the spoils.
The terms of Wallwork's loan at Oakwell would have ruled him out of this game anyway, but he was missed and not forgotten.
A rolling advertising hoarding in full view of the television cameras proclaiming the words 'Get well soon, Ronnie' was a joint message from both clubs. It would have been some comfort as he recovers from the knife attack in a Manchester bar ten days ago but watching the rest of this spectacle would not have brought much solace.
It was not the best game to set before a television audience and Albion's 843 earned the right to be called loyal supporters. But, despite a tame first half-hour, Albion had more than enough chances to have won with ease following Koumas's opening goal.
They were left bemused that they should have leaked a comic cuts equaliser, so soon after going ahead and it was obvious that relegation-haunted Barnsley, under caretaker management after sacking Andy Ritchie last month, were relieved to get a point.
Caretaker manager Simon Davey admitted Barnsley were up against "the best squad of players in the division." And, although they ended their run of four away defeats, Albion must be getting tired of hearing such tributes without getting three away points.
Tony Mowbray made just one change to the team which beat Derby County at The Hawthorns eight days previously. John Hartson's winning goal that day earned him a return to Albion's Championship starting line-up for the first time under Mowbray, as replacement for the suspended Diomansy Kamara.
With Chris Perry serving a one-game ban, that meant Paul McShane continuing in the middle of the back four alongside Curtis Davies and the inexperience showed in the early stages as Barnsley carved out openings, chiefly through Daniel Nardiello.
The son of former Coventry City striker Don Nardiello, he wasted the best when he fired over from 12 yards. He was then thwarted by former Manchester United team-mate McShane after Russell Hoult had saved Paul Hayes' shot and denied when his long-range effort was tipped round the post by Hoult.
Albion had threatened only through two breaks down the right from Martin Albrechtsen, the second carved out by a superb pass from Jonathan Greening. But the visitors went ahead against the general run of play on the other side of the pitch on the half-hour.
Koumas had tried luck once before but lost the ball, produced a rare attempt at tracking back to win it back and was ridiculously booked for his trouble. But he had better luck when Nigel Quashie's ball over the top picked out the Welsh international running down the inside0left channel and he powered on to thump home a left-foot volley for his third goal in five games.
The lead lasted just four minutes before the home side levelled with a goal that did not reflect much credit on Hoult. Nardiello's right-wing corner caught on the breeze, leaving Hoult waving at thin air as the ball came back off the bar. When it was returned into the box, the Baggies' No 1 again could only flap, the defence failed to clearand a grateful Paul Hayes smashed it home from eight yards - ending a run of 15 games without a goal.
There could have been more damage before the break as Nardiello failed to test Hoult with a free hit from the edge of the box and Hayes headed just wide.
Hartson did at least briefly escape Bobby Hassell's attentions to test Nicky Colgan from close range just before the break and the recalled Albion striker was fast out of the blocks when his explosive right-foot shot cannoned back off the upright, only for Kevin Phillips' follow-up to hit Colgan's legs and deflect wide for a corner.
Barnsley responded with headers from Leon Knight and Hassell, the first flying past Hoult's right past, the second missing on the other side.
Nardiello also failed to find the target after a cross from substitute Martin Devaney but the second half was always a contest from which Albion looked more likely to emerge the victors.
They could only curse at the chances that went begging. For 10 minutes, Mowbray even went for a three-man attack but substitute Nathan Ellington had a powerful shot blocked and when Hartson twice failed to find the net, hitting the bar and then firing just wide, the linesman's flag would also have denied him on each occasion.
When the tiring Hartson finally went off, Phillips came alive, being denied at the near post by Colgan with an agile turn and shot and then when his shot was blocked in a scramble from the resulting corner.
After being felled on the edge of the box, Koumas had his goalbound free-kick blocked by Paul Reid and Ellington had two more late chances.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Colgan; Austin, P Reid, Hassell, Heckingbottom; Hayes,Togwell, Howard, K Reid (Devaney, 72); Knight (Richards, 75), Nardiello. Subs:Letheren (gk), Williams, McCann
WEST BROMWICH ALBION (4-4-2): Hoult; Albrechtsen, Davies, McShane (Clement, 62), Robinson; Gera (Ellington, 67), Quashie, Greening, Koumas; Hartson (Carter, 76), Phillips. Subs: Steele (gk), Hodgkiss
Referee: Tony Bates (Stoke)
Bookings: Barnsley — Hayes (foul); Albion — McShane, Koumas (fouls).
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