Doug O'Kane looks at some key points from Saturday's 2-0 defeat of Nottingham Forest at Oakwell in which Callum Styles and Cauley Woodrow netted late on.


At 0-0 with nine games left in a home game, it is a big call to take off your captain, who had scored more open play goals than anyone in the squad this season, and your most dangerous attacking player until that point.

But that is what Valerien Ismael did as he removed Alex Mowatt, who had not quite hit his usual very high standards, and Conor Chaplin whose passing and movement had seemed the likeliest route to goal.

On came youngsters Clarke Oduor and Victor Adeboyejo, the third and fourth changes of an eventual five.

Four minutes later, Oduor played a fine pass down the left wing for Adeboyejo who beat a defender then passed the ball to Cauley Woodrow in the box who nudged it back to Callum Styles to score a superb opener.

Styles would not have been in that position on the edge of the area had he not been moved from left wing-back to central midfield when Mowatt went off.

It was a shrewd double change by Ismael who seems to be making all the right decisions in this superb start to his reign at Oakwell.

In Text Promo Image

The head coach is delighted with the rule change which means he can make five substitutions instead of three. He had already brought on central midfielder Herbie Kane who seemed to offer Barnsley more control after replacing Matty James.

Forest's bench contained four internationals, including former England and Arsenal man Carl Jenkinson, as well as summer signings £4.5million teenager Loic Mbe Soh and £5million Harry Arter – one of several experienced Championship players who were in reserve.

But, whereas Forest made just one change, it was Barnsley’s replacements who made more of a difference - diminishing the idea that extra substitutes gives an advantage to wealthier clubs.


The last time Forest visited Oakwell in the league, Callum Styles saved his team from relegation with a crucial last-ditch tackle in the build-up to Patrick Schmidt’s 94th-minute goal.

This time, 20-year-old not scored the stunning opening goal which was his first at Oakwell. He also produced probably his best defensive performance since being converted to a left wing-back as he made the most tackles of any Barnsley player as well as a crucial block in his six-yard box from Joe Lolley at 0-0.

He also made the most touches and passes of any Reds player as he continued to excel on the left and also in his natural position in the centre after Mowatt was taken off.

Styles spoke after the game of wanting to play at the highest level and he certainly appears capable of doing so, but the Reds must look to keep him as long as they can and demand only a huge price for what seems to be a very special talent.


Two minutes after Styles scored, Cauley Woodrow converted from a Brittain cross for his first open play goal in the league in 18 games across 269 days since he got the winner at Hull City in February.

The striker - who had been dropped by Gerhard Struber for the previous league meeting of the clubs - had already scored against Forest this season in the cup then added three league penalties.

He moved onto five goals in 11 matches so is well on course to better last season’s tally of 15 and pass Sam Winnall’s 48 who is the only Barnsley played to net more than Woodrow’s 39 in 89 since Bruce Dyer left the club in 2003.

The first open play league goal could be an important psychological barrier to leap over, especially at the end of a game in which he could have had a hat-trick as he had hit the bar either side of half-time. Woodrow is a high-quality Championship striker and a major asset for the club.


It is difficult to know how much to read into this run of four wins and four clean sheets in Ismael’s first five games.

The other 11 games in this gruelling 12-game spell until January 2 will show us more clearly how far up the table the Reds can push this season.

But it is hard not to get excited about this young side - the football they are playing, goals they are scoring, maturity they are showing to keep goals out and manage games as well as the impact the impressive Ismael has clearly made so far.

Four wins out of five in the Championship is not usual form for Barnsley in recent decades. If this good run goes on, supporters will start to dream of a special season despite the looming spectre of the January transfer window which has killed off such dreams in the past.

Whether or not they can keep this run going, they have definitely made substantial progress. After 12 games of last season, Barnsley had seven points and were bottom, having conceded 23 goals. After 12 games of this season, they have 16 points and are eight points clear of the bottom three (six off the play-offs) with a positive goal difference.

A top half finish seems an ambitious but realistic aim for this in-form side.


Since football restarted in June, Barnsley lost once at Oakwell and Nottingham Forest have lost there three times.

Saturday was the third time in Barnsley’s eight home games that they had beaten Forest, with the last two bringing 1-0 wins in the final Oakwell league game of last season and the first match of this campaign in the EFL Cup.

In all three matches, Barnsley have looked the better side and deserved winners.

Forest started just two of the same players who lost 1-0 at Oakwell in July whereas Barnsley started six of the same players.

Both sides had changed manager since then and, while Chris Hughton lost to the Reds for the first time in his seventh meeting, Ismael called the win ‘my first real game in English football’ after an international break following a hectic first fortnight in the role. As the Reds also won at Derby, the international break was bookended by 2-0 wins over East Midlands clubs who had spent heavily on their squads but are below Barnsley in the table.