Doug O'Kane looks back at Barnsley's 0-0 draw with Derby County on Wednesday night which ended a seven-match winning run but kept the sixth-placed Reds unbeaten in ten games.
ISMAEL FRUSTRATED AT ‘DISRESPECTFUL’ COMMENTS
After missing out on Barnsley’s longest winning run since the week that Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister in 1955, Valerien Ismael clashed with another world-famous Englishman on Wednesday evening.
Following a forgettable contest, in which Barnsley lost their seven-game winning run but made it ten matches unbeaten, there was more drama in the post-match press conference than on the pitch.
Wayne Rooney - England and Manchester United’s record scorer who is now Derby manager - said the Reds were the most direct team he had ever seen after following other managers in changing formation and style to match Barnsley, reverting to a 3-4-3 and smashing long balls forward all night.
Rooney did praise the Reds for reaching the top six but his attitude and that of previous opposition managers enraged Ismael who said it was disrespectful and false to say they copied Barnsley’s direct style for any other reason than fear of the Reds’ pressing game.
Ismael has such a clear way he wants to play, the same in every single game, that he can’t understand or accept why someone would change their own style and then blame the opposition.
While there was no intended disrespect or malice detected in the press room within Rooney’s comments, it is understandable that Ismael would feel slighted at the constant maligning of his approach given the history-making achievements of himself, his staff and his players this season which put them in the play-off places after 35 games.
While Ismael considers teams changing their style against him a compliment, he is insulted that, in his opinion, they are not honest about the reasons why.
Constant negative comments from opposition coaches and players may give him a reputation of using a primitive, horrible style of play which ignores his tactical nous, excellent substitutions, inspirational personality and impenetrable belief in a philosophy which has had huge success at Oakwell.
His side have also put together some of the best team goals in the club’s recent history such as at Derby and Sheffield Wednesday.
When this fixture was called off in February due to a waterlogged pitch, the Reds were winless in five league games, but – even though they went into the rearranged game on a winning run of seven – they may have had a better chance of winning the original match as that was before all their opponents began to go direct.
It was a totally different match to the reverse fixture in which Barnsley’s pressing terrified County who had 72 per cent of the ball, with 400 more of both touches and passes, but deservedly lost 2-0. This time Barnsley shaded possession in an ugly battle.
A VERY POOR GAME OF FOOTBALL
Rooney and Ismael had excellent careers as players, winning titles with world class teams at two of the biggest clubs on the planet in Manchester United and Bayern Munich respectively.
But between them they produced a turgid spectacle on Wednesday.
After rain throughout the day – the ground staff worked very hard to clear surface water so the fixture was not postponed for a second time – and the ball popping in the first minute and being replaced, it almost seemed as though some higher force knew what was about to be inflicted on the watching public and wanted to cancel the game.
Both teams played high lines which condensed much of the play in the middle of the pitch, and they each attempted to launch long balls over the opposition defences with limited success on a very windy night.
Rooney identified Barnsley’s three centre-backs as ‘their best play-makers’ so instructed his three forwards to man-mark them and stop them playing good passes forward, a tactic that worked.
Despite being in the relegation fight, and the lowest scorers in the division apart from the bottom two, Derby looked a reasonable outfit, defending well and asking questions with attacking players such as Kamil Jozwiak and Colin Kazim-Richards. But were denied by the finishing of Lee Gregory as well as the inside of Barnsley’s right post.
TO BE SIXTH AFTER 35 GAMES AND UNBEATEN IN TEN IS FANTASTIC
Barnsley are sixth in the Championship after 35 games and unbeaten in ten.
Those are remarkable statistics which would have seemed unthinkable last year and are a credit to everyone at the club for a tremendous season.
The fact that they go to Bournemouth – who have spent around £100million on their squad – on Saturday ahead of the Cherries in the promotion race is already a massive achievement.
Barnsley were disappointed post-match as this was their game in hand and they could have gone four points clear of the sides outside the top six, as well as just six off the top two.
But they should be proud of their seven-game winning run, the best in 66 years and the best ever at this level and, while it has now ended, they still kept a sixth clean sheet in nine matches and collected a point that could be vital at the end of the season. They were inevitably going to tire at some point in this gruelling schedule but they showed character to escape with a draw.
CHAPLIN CHANCE BIG MOMENT
The first half was very low on action or quality but that is often the way for Ismael who gets his side a foothold in the game before adapting to win it.
The Reds should have taken the lead early in the second half for the second time this week but, after Daryl Dike’s wondergoal on Saturday, Conor Chaplin missed a far easier chance.
Just 50 seconds after the break, Chaplin met an Alex Mowatt cross from the left in the six-yard box but could only poke the ball straight at goalkeeper Kelle Roos who made a good save.
Chaplin – who replaced Dominik Frieser in the starting 11 – has scored just three goals in 33 games this season, in which he has often been used in a wider role and rotated in and out of the 11.
Chances have been at a premium for Chaplin, who pointed out pre-match that ‘90 per cent of our goals are from set pieces or long-range worldies.’
He is not happy with his tally of goals or assists, and needs to rediscover last season’s scoring touch, but can still unlock defences with clever touches and movement so may have a big role to play in the run-in.
On the other side of the front three was Cauley Woodrow who now has one goal in his last ten games. Barnsley’s top-scorer worked extremely hard, popping up all over the pitch in the first half but rarely in a dangerous position while his long-range shooting continues to be wayward. He was booked early for a wild tackle while Dike was carded late on for a dive in the box. The American won seven headers but put two of them wide in the first half from crosses by the wing-backs.
COLLINS MAN OF THE MATCH
Barnsley's best player was their goalkeeper Brad Collins who made a crucial one-on-one save in the second half and also ran out of his goal very well to clear the almost constant long balls the Rams launched forward.
There is very little to choose between Collins and Jack Walton, who he replaced in January after sitting out the first half of the season. But Barnsley concede among the fewest shots in the division, but are often peppered with long balls so it makes sense to select the best goalkeeper at running out of box and sweeping up. That is an area in which Collins is currently ahead of Walton.
Derby had no shots in the first half but should have had a big chance when Gregory failed to control a long ball which would have put him clean through after the home back line was exposed amid calls for offside.
They eventually got in on 72 minutes when one of the long balls finally worked and Kazim-Richards squared to Gregory who was clean through but denied by a fine one-on-one block by Collins.
Shinnie then hit the base of the bottom right post with a deflected effort from just outside the box then the ball ran across the goalline and out with Collins later saying ‘I don’t know how that didn’t go in but, when your luck is in, it is in.’