The Reds shaded the first half but it was the early stages of the second half in which they dominated, scoring one goal and missing chances for another. That was when Cauley Woodrow and Conor Chaplin – who netted 28 goals last season – were paired together up front and looked excellent, tormenting Forest with their movement and telepathic understanding.
Woodrow got the goal, in which Chaplin played a key role with a good run and cross on the right of the box, then he should have had another but sent a free header over the bar six yards out from an excellent Chaplin cross. Woodrow also set up Chaplin, playing him in on the left of the box but goalkeeper Brice Samba made a fine save.
Woodrow has the skillset to play in the number ten position Struber has usually deployed him in – and he did well there in the first half, especially late on – but Barnsley looked far more threatening when he was alongside Chaplin up front.
It may well be a horses for courses situation, with unused substitute Jacob Brown, Dominik Frieser, who replaced Chaplin after an hour, and Patrick Schmidt – the hero of the last meeting of these clubs – also in contention. But in that 15-minute spell, Woodrow and Chaplin both looked back to their top level after their potency decreased at the end of last season.
STYLES AND MOWATT DUO HAS POTENTIAL WHILE ODUOR OUTSHINES RITZMAIERThe central midfield place alongside captain Alex Mowatt and the left wing-back berth are the two positions in the Reds 11 currently most up-for-grabs. Gerhard Struber said pre-match that a place in the starting 11 for Luton in the league next week could be earned in this cup tie.
Callum Styles – although perhaps not at his best early on with some wayward corners – and Mowatt controlled the game in the middle, both setting up chances in attack and protecting their defence. That looks to be the first choice central pairing, although it is no secret the Reds would like to sign another player in that position – potentially one more naturally defensively-minded.
As for left wing-back, Marcel Ritzmaier is a central midfielder being trialled there but may have lost his place to Clarke Oduor who replaced him at the break and added a lot more to the attack, including an assist, while looking solid defensively.
ADEBOYEJO SHOWS PROMISE AFTER SHOCK SELECTION
Victor Adeboyejo was a surprise starter up front, with Struber saying afterwards that he wanted to judge him in a competitive game before the league matches start.
It was his eighth start for the club – half of which have come in the EFL Trophy – and his first since the draw at Doncaster Rovers in Doncaster Rovers last year. He made three more substitute appearances, the last being in the 3-1 loss at Burton Albion 518 days ago, before spending last season on loan at Bristol Rovers in League One and Cambridge United in League Two in which he scored twice in 38 games.
He dropped deep and held the ball up well and times but Barnsley were better when he had been taken off at half-time and replaced by Elliot Simoes who played behind Chaplin and Woodrow and linked up with them well. Struber said Adeboyejo did well but also hinted that he could be loaned out as he is well down the pecking order of strikers.
FIRST OPENING GAME WITHOUT A NEW STARTER IN MORE THAN A DECADE
Dominik Frieser made an impressive debut, forcing a save from Samba and also showing some good footwork to hold the ball up and play in team-mates.
Although Frieser made his debut off the bench, this was the first opening game of the season in which Barnsley did not start a debutant since they drew 2-2 at Sheffield Wednesday in August 2009.
They began that season very poorly and Simon Davey was sacked in September but, on this evidence, they look highly likely to make a much better start to this season.
BARNSLEY HAVE KEPT STARS SO FAR, FOREST HAVE NOT
Barnsley have – so far – kept their key players but Forest lost star man Matty Cash (albeit for a fee beyond the Reds’ wildest dreams of £16million) to Premier League Aston Villa last week while Joe Worrall and Tiago Silva are also wanted by other clubs and did not play today.
The hosts fielded nine of the same starters from their 1-0 win in the last Oakwell match while Forest started just four of the same players, but the result was the same and the hosts have been by far the better team in both games.
Whereas the Reds are on a high after the great escape, Forest still seem to be reeling after finishing seventh despite being five points clear in the top six with two games left before their last trip to Oakwell.