Doug O'Kane looks at the next nine matches as the Reds aim to continue momentum created by the good start to Valerien Ismael's spell as head coach.

Games against Nottingham Forest on a weekend and Brentford in midweek brought one of the most epic and memorable finishes to a season in Barnsley’s history earlier this year.

Four months have now passed since the Reds were bottom of the Championship and five points from safety with two games to play against sides in the top five.

It is already in Barnsley folklore that Patrick Schmidt’s 94th-minute winner against Forest kept their dreams of staying in the division alive on the Sunday then, three days later, Clarke Oduor also struck in injury-time at Griffin Park to complete a remarkable against-all-odds escape.

Forest and Brentford – whose promotion ambitions were both dashed by Barnsley in that final week of last season – are now the next two opponents as the Reds look to continue their fine start to life under Valerien Ismael and increase the six-point gap between them and the bottom three, while reducing the same gap to the top six.

Although the end of last season clearly provides great memories, the squad and staff have mentally moved on to this campaign and are confident of being well clear of the scrap at the bottom this time.

While he gave the players most of last week off, Ismael has used the majority of the current international break to implement his style further and get to know his players better after his first fortnight at the club brought four games – three of which were won with clean sheets.

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From tomorrow, they will plunge into a schedule of 12 matches in 43 days while there are no more international breaks until March.

That will test Barnsley to the limits, with injuries an issue for all clubs but especially a squad that is light in certain areas, often relies heavily on key players for goals and creativity, and plays an all-action high-pressing style. The change to five substitutes may help to ease that slightly.

There are sure to be ups and downs and problems along the way but the performances and results against QPR, Watford and Derby suggest the Reds – should they avoid a major injury crisis – are capable of picking up regular points throughout November and December.

Keeping hold of stars in January will then become an issue but the current focus is on maintaining this good form.

None of the nine fixtures before Christmas look especially intimidating, and some seem very winnable.

Twelve points from those nine should be the minimum target, as it would be likely to maintain a healthy gap between them and the bottom three, but this ambitious squad will have loftier ideas as they look to surge into the top half.


Having defeated Queens Park Rangers and Watford, Valerien Ismael will attempt to replicate Paul Heckingbottom in 2016, the last head coach to win his first three home matches in charge of Barnsley without conceding a goal.

For the second game in a row, the Reds take on a struggling East Midlands club who are in the bottom five as they look to follow up their win at Derby County before the international break.

Forest have some high-quality players and a very experienced manager in Chris Hughton but Barnsley have beaten them 1-0 in July and September at home and will look for another victory.


It will have been 125 days since, in the final minutes of league action at Griffin Park, Brentford needed to score to reach the Premier League for the first time and Barnsley had to net to stay in the Championship having been nine points adrift with 14 games to play.

It was the visitors who struck through instant cult hero Clarke Oduor, sparking jubilant celebrations on the touchline and for the fans watching at home through iFollow.

Brentford will certainly be keen for revenge but the Reds will be confident they can produce another high-pressing and counter-attacking masterclass like the one that stunned the Bees in July.


The two top-scorers in the Championship currently are both former Barnsley loanees who struggled to impress while at Oakwell.

The only player to net more in the second tier this season than Brentford’s Ivan Toney is Blackburn’s Adam Armstrong who has 11 goals in ten league appearances this season having netted just six in 34 for the Reds in the 2016/17 season.

Rovers are the top-scorers in the Championship with 21 in 11 matches but are 12th in the table having lost five and won four. This game will be a year and five days after Barnsley’s 3-2 loss at Blackburn in the first game under Gerhard Struber.


Blues manager Aitor Karanka has won all three games against Barnsley, including a 3-1 victory with Middlesbrough which sent the Reds down in 2014 then a 3-0 win with Nottingham Forest which was a crucial result in another relegation four years later.

This is the first match in the month of December which will see Barnsley play eight times. City have made an identical start to the Reds, with 13 points from 11 games, having lost at home to Wycombe Wanderers and Bournemouth before the international break.

They are due to play away from home in their own stadium tonight as they ‘visit’ tenants Coventry City.


The Reds have not faced the Dorset club since losing twice in the 2013/14 season while they have not beaten the Cherries since 2004 at Dean Court and they have not had success at Oakwell over Bournemouth since an FA Cup game in 1999.

This will be Barnsley’s third game in seven days as it has been moved forward a day until a Friday evening after being selected for live coverage on Sky.

Having dropped out of the Premier League following a six-year spell in which they spent a quarter of a billion pounds, Bournemouth are one of the favourites for promotion and currently lie fourth.


This Wednesday night match might be one of the few that Barnsley are made strong favourites for by bookmakers.

But they cannot afford any complacency at all against a Chairboys side who not only play the type of direct, physical football Barnsley often struggle against but who, having lost their first seven Championship games in their history, collected seven points from three in a week.

This could be the start of an important four-day spell of games against sides currently in the bottom three of the Championship.


The away trip that many Barnsley fans look for as soon as the fixture list is out, although often with a feeling of dread as well as excitement given the Reds’ recent record at Hillsborough.

The Owls – who lost 3-0 in another derby against Rotherham earlier this season – would be behind Barnsley even if they had not been deducted six points for breaching financial fair play protocols, which was originally 12 before being halved.

They sacked former Barnsley defender Garry Monk – whose team scored six in 11 games – last week and replaced him with Tony Pulis. The Reds will be desperate to stay above their neighbours by this fixture then end a 12-game wait for victory in the derby.


The Lilywhites were Barnsley’s toughest opponents last season as they won 5-1 at Deepdale, ending Daniel Stendel’s tenure, and 3-0 at Oakwell in January.

They are level on points with the Reds after losing all five home games this season, with just one goal, but collecting the most points and goals in the division on their travels.

They have 14 away goals in six games compared to 20 in all of last season when they were the joint lowest scorers on the road with Barnsley.

Manager Alex Neil is a former Barnsley midfielder as are his players Brad Potts and Ben Pearson.

This will be the last of four successive midweek fixtures for the Reds.


Like last year, when they drew 0-0 on December 29, the Reds make one of their longest trips of the season to the Liberty Stadium during the festive period. The Swans will hope by that point to have maintained the position in the top six which they currently occupy.

The Reds then complete 2020 with two Yorkshire derbies as they host Huddersfield Town on Boxing Day then visit Rotherham United three days later.

A trip to Norwich City on the second day of 2021 begins a comparatively quiet January which will see Barnsley play Swansea for the second time in four weeks then visit Watford and Nottingham Forest either side of a home game with Cardiff City.