The Reds are second-bottom in the table, three points from safety, after winning their last three matches without conceding a goal. Should they gain three points at 16th-placed Reading tomorrow, it will be their first four-match winning run at this level since early 2013 under David Flitcroft whose side overturned a seven-point deficit to survive on the final day. This time they are attempting to claw back a nine-point gap which opened earlier this month.
Gerhard Struber’s side began the week bottom, moved up to 23rd after a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough on Saturday then – after going back to last following Tuesday’s results – they won 1-0 at Hull City on Wednesday to jump up a place. This is Barnsley’s first three-game winning run in the Championship since early in the 2016/17 season when they won 4-0 against Rotherham United and Wolverhampton Wanderers either side of a 2-1 success at Preston North End.
They have kept three successive clean sheets in the Championship for the first time since late 2010 when they won 1-0 at home to both Portsmouth and Sheffield United either side of a goalless draw at home to Watford. It is their first run of three wins without conceding at this level since late in the 2000/01 season.
Struber told the Chronicle: “There is a very good feeling in every single player. We know we can win, we know we can win consistently and we know we can bring a good performance in every game. This is very very important for the soul of our players.”
After victories at Fulham and Hull, the Reds have won back-to-back away Championship games for the first time since they beat Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest in 2016/17. The last time they won three successive league matches on the road was in 2015/16 under Lee Johnson who won his last four away League One games before moving to Bristol City.
The last time Barnsley won three consecutive away games in the Championship (or Division One as it was previously called) was at the start of the 1996/97 season in which they were promoted to the Premiership. Struber said: “It’s a good feeling that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We have a long way to go and we have to be consistent but, in the end, I believe we can stay in the league. We have the power, we have the energy and we have the quality. My players know it is not easy for other teams to play against us.”
The bottom seven sides are separated by just six points since a resurgence by the bottom three. Last-placed Luton have won three of their last four while third-bottom Wigan have been beaten just once in their last seven, with four victories. Struber said: “It is very important that we pick up the points because all the other teams are picking up points right now which is not so easy. The Championship is so tough. Many teams are with us in the relegation fight.”
Struber believes that Barnsley will have an advantage in the final weeks of the season because they have been battling the drop all season, whereas other clubs may slip into the fight late on. He said: “There are so many teams who have problems with consistency and, in the end, maybe we have a big surprise which club goes down. Maybe for many clubs who are near the relegation zone, it is an absolutely new situation in terms of pressure.”
Barnsley have been attempting to sign a new centre-back in the free agent market but, after looking at a number of defenders without a club, they are yet to recruit. Their current players in that position are Michael Sollbauer and Aapo Halme, who have kept three clean sheets since being paired together, and Mads Andersen, who has been dropped from the squad for this run of wins and clean sheets.
Tomorrow’s match at Reading will be Barnsley’s seventh in 29 days throughout February, followed by a quieter March in which three of their four fixtures are at Oakwell. The Reds host Cardiff City a week tomorrow then visit QPR the following Saturday before their final fixtures before the last international break of the season are at home to Millwall, in a midweek tie, then Blackburn Rovers.