Doug O'Kane looks at Saturday's 0-0 draw at Nottingham Forest.
MORE ANGER AT REFEREE AS PENALTY NOT GIVEN
Four days after Andy Woolmer apologised for wrongly awarding Cardiff a corner at Oakwell – from which they launched their comeback from 2-0 while he also ruled out a fine goal early on – his fellow referee Leigh Doughty made a vital error in the 22nd minute at the City Ground.
A left-wing long throw by Herbie Kane led to a scramble then Michal Helik's close-range shot was blocked by the goalkeeper Brice Samba, while Samba Sow was clearly pulled Helik back. But Doughty – who gave the Reds a penalty late on against Bristol City in October – did not award a spot-kick.
Valerien Ismael was fuming post-match, calling Doughty's performance 'unacceptable', and accusing him and Woolmer of making 'incredibly poor decisions' while saying his side would have collected six points from the last two games if the referees 'had done their job.'
Ismael began his time in England by playing down refereeing mistakes, such as the missed handball in the loss at Brentford.
But an accumulation of the decisions against his team have built up rage inside him which has boiled over after the Cardiff and Forest games.
We will have to see whether Barnsley's luck with referees turns in the coming games, but it is understandable that they are furious about missing out on four valuable points which would have put them eighth, two points off the play-off places.
FORM SLIGHTLY MISLEADING GIVEN CIRCUMSTANCES
Of all the five-game winless runs Barnsley have suffered through in their history, there cannot be many with more mitigating circumstances than the first five Championship fixtures of 2021.
After facing the top three teams in the division, and competing well but collecting no points their next opponents Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest both benefited from controversial refereeing.
The Reds have finished each of the five matches thinking they should have collected more points than they got.
Helik should have levelled in the last second at Norwich, there was an offside goal and a penalty not given against Swansea – although the defending was very poor that day – and more penalty drama in the loss at Watford.
In February, they mainly play mid-table sides so, if they have a bit more luck with refereeing but continue their decent performances, they could comfortablY maintain their place in the top half.
REDS MUCH BETTER IN SECOND HALF
Other than the penalty incident, Barnsley offered little in the first half of a fairly forgettable game.
Forest looked dangerous when counter-attacking behind the Reds' high line, and should have scored twice, while the visitors' long ball tactics did not really work and they lacked quality the few times they had the ball in dangerous areas.
Barnsley's press lacked intensity before the interval and was easily broken by clever passing from the expensively-assembled home attack.
The Reds were much better after the break, passing the ball well and creating chances including a big opportunity for Woodrow which he headed to close to the goalkeeper, before tiring in their fifth game in 14 days against a side who had not played for a week.
Ultimately Forest just shaded the game in terms of chances but overall it was an even contest and a draw was probably fair.
CLEAN SHEET A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Barnsley earned a first clean sheet in 14 Championship games – but a third in six including cup games – since winning 2-0 at home to Forest in November, one of three defeats at Oakwell for the East Midlands club in 2020.
The back three were exposed in the first half but that was due to poor passing and positioning in front of them, which improved after the break.
Mads Andersen made the most clearances and won the most aerial battles, while Helik also impressed and Toby Sibbick did little wrong before being replaced by Michael Sollbauer just after the hour-mark for the third successive game.
It was a point that takes them closer to Ismael's target of 50 against a team that, although fourth-bottom, had only lost one of their last eight league matches and should be far higher in the table given their budget and the talent in their squad.
REDS HUNT NEW STRIKER, BUT THOSE AT CLUB NEED TO SCORE MORE
Barnsley are hoping to bring in another forward before the end of the January transfer window on Monday at 11pm, but they also need the strikers they already have to net more often.
Cauley Woodrow is on course for 20 goals this season, but his fellow forwards have not been backing him up with goals.
Conor Chaplin has not scored in 15 appearances with neither Victor Adeboyejo or Dominik Frieser netting in their last ten, while Patrick Schmidt, George Miller and Carlton Morris are yet to score in the Championship this season although they have just two starts between them.
Most of those mentioned have been used in wide roles rather than the central striker position Woodrow occupies, reducing the likelihood of them having major chances.
But the likes of Adeboyejo, Chaplin and Frieser have all missed opportunities and, while they work extremely hard and add to the team in other ways, they need to offer more with goals and assists.