Doug O'Kane analyses Tuesday night's 1-0 defeat to Brentford.
BARNSLEY DENIED CLEAR PENALTY
It was a blatant penalty.
Vitaly Janelt’s handball was as clear as you see in football as he prevented Victor Adeboyejo’s cross flying into the box and possibly reaching Cauley Woodrow in a very good position to score.
Referee Darren Bond was also in a good position, with seemingly an obstructed view of the incident from just a few yards away, but decided not to award the spot-kick in the 86th minute.
The Lancashire official provoked even more frustration among Barnsley fans and staff than when he booked eight Reds at West Brom last season.
It was the second time in as many meetings that Brentford got away with a clear handball as Pinnock handled at Griffin Park in July before the Reds won in the final seconds to stay in the Championship.
Had the penalty against Janelt been given and scored – as expected considering Cauley Woodrow’s excellent record from the spot – then it would have been a smash and grab point since the hosts did not have a shot or barely an attack in the final hour and the visitors dominated the second half.
But Barnsley should have been given the chance to level from 12 yards and they will have to hope that the old footballing cliche is true and these things ‘even themselves out’ over the course of a season.
As Ismael suggested afterwards, there is not much to be gained by dwelling bitterly on the incident. Refereeing mistakes happen, the Reds just have to move on.
The head coach has rejuvenated the club and four wins from six, leaving them seven points clear of the bottom three, is the kind of start he would dreamed of when he took over a month ago.
Mr Bond left Barnsley shaken but not stirred.
BEES IMPRESSIVE BUT BARNSLEY SHOWED THEM TOO MUCH RESPECT
Brentford were the best footballing side Barnsley have faced so far this season.
Although they have lost some key men from last season, and had won just one in six going into this game, they looked capable of another promotion push after losing the play-off final in August.
The Reds had two shots – both in the first 20 minutes and from outside the box – and Ismael’s surprise comment that he was ‘very delighted’ with the performance refers surely to the defensive organisation and discipline his side showed for most of the game rather than the quality that was sadly lacking, especially in the second half when they seemed to tire badly.
Last season when Barnsley lost 3-1 at home to Brentford, Dimitri Cavare was jogging back and not marking for all three goals but the Reds do not have any players like that now and you cannot fault the hard work and commitment in this performance. The problem was that they showed their visitors too much respect, not disrupting Brentford or ‘getting in their faces’ enough until Adeboyejo came on after 71 minutes and was their best attacking player. It was a night that Barnsley needed a plan B and Adeboyejo is the closest thing they have to a targetman. His physicality and energy certainly unsettled the Brentford defence more than the starting front three who did not have a shot.
Ismael learned from his first defeat in Cardiff that some Championship clubs are so direct and physical that you need to change your style against them. From this defeat, he must learn that you cannot give the better sides in the division too much respect because eventually, if you sit back and let them play, they will find a way to beat you unless you produce the perfect defensive display which this was not.
Several players have mentioned Ismael’s ‘pressing triggers’ as one of the main changes from the Gerhard Struber regime. He wants them to wait longer and for different moments to start closing down the opposition, and often it changes from game to game. Ismael believed the Bees were too good and calm on the ball to press them successfully.
At Brentford in July, Reds attackers were chasing defenders all over the pitch to close them down but, this time, they were standing off and allowing them to build from the back. Out of possession, which Barnsley almost always were, they turned themselves into three red lines – a deep front three, two central midfielders and a flat back five with the wing-backs going forward far less.
Brentford could not break through in the first half and, while they had 70 per cent possession, much of it was in their own half or non-threatening areas.
Their skilful players had to beat several defenders just to get a cross into the box and those were always dealt with by a back three who had only Toney to mark.
But, after the break, Brentford changed their tactics and attacked the flanks more, often doubling up with a full-back and midfielder against a Barnsley wing-back and the hosts conceded a succession of corners which led to the goal.
SET PIECE WOES RETURN AS HELIK LOSES OUT
Barnsley have worked extremely hard to improve when defending set pieces and are certainly a lot better than a year ago when it was a major weakness. But that problem did return for the winning goal on Tuesday.
Ismael’s side were using zonal marking but did look completely comfortable in it, especially from left-sided corners by Mathias Jensen who caused chaos with a couple of wicked low deliveries – one of which was headed straight at Walton by Pontus Jansson.
Eventually a Jensen corner was expertly headed into the bottom right corner by Toney as Michal Helik was too slow in rushing out to challenge him.
The Polish centre-back has all the attributes to be a very good signing but – like a less extreme version of Mads Andersen’s struggles last season – he is making a few too many errors at the moment. Helik – who made the most interceptions and clearances – will almost certainly reduce those mistakes as he adapts to the Championship.
BIG-MONEY SIGNING TONEY FINALLY NETS AT OAKWELL
Toney did not score in 11 games at Oakwell as a Barnsley player, when he struggled to make an impact as a teenager in League One in 2015/16.
But, since moving from Peterborough for this season, he has 11 goals in as many Championship games and is second top-scorer behind another former Barnsley loanee Adam Armstrong who they face next in Blackburn on Saturday.
Toney was recruited in a deal allegedly worth £12million which is more than the hosts had spent on their whole starting 11.
Both clubs use ‘moneyball’ data-driven approaches but Brentford regularly sell players for £10million or more which allows them to spend a lot more than the Reds. Brentford’s starting line-up was only very slightly older on average than their hosts’ but it had been recruited for more than £30million, with seven players signed for higher fees than Barnsley’s club record.
NO RED MADE MORE PASSES THAN GOALKEEPER WALTON
Barnsley’s goalkeeper made the most passes of any home player, which is surely a real rarity.
Jack Walton made 26 passes– one of which went straight to Brentford and resulted in Bryan Mbuemo firing a good chance over. But he also kept the score down by pushing over an early long-range effort from the impressive Tariqe Fosu then, at 1-0, making a fine one-on-one stop from Marcus Forss.
The fact that no Barnsley man passed the ball more times than their goalkeeper illustrates how much they were penned in their own half and struggled to get the ball forward.