Doug O’Kane looks at where the Reds are after a positive opening day in Cardiff then a cup loss at Bolton in Markus Schopp’s first two competitive matches
EARLY DAYS BUT REDS CAN'T WAIT TOO LONG TO START SCORING
The main point highlighted by Markus Schopp in his press conference on Tuesday was that Barnsley are struggling to finish their chances at the moment.
The head coach pointed out that profligacy had plagued his side in pre-season, then at Cardiff City on Saturday, and again in the midweek cup loss at Bolton.
It is far too early to panic, but the Reds will obviously want to start finding the net regularly soon.
Carlton Morris fired three good opportunities over the bar in Wales but he is likely to come good, based on last season’s excellent post-January impact.
The same is true of Cauley Woodrow who came close on Saturday then saw a legitimate goal ruled out in midweek. The fact that that would have been his 50th for the club, at a rate of one every two and half games, shows he is one of the most reliable goal-scorers in the club’s history and he can be expected to at least reach double figures again this season.
Victor Adeboyejo and Clarke Oduor both should have scored at least once in Bolton, when the Reds generally struggled with their decision-making in attacking positions.
Those two will need to be more clinical if they are to play regularly, with Belgian duo Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka currently working on their fitness and getting used to Schopp’s style of play.
The Belgians, who have both played at a high level, should add different attributes to the Barnsley attack with Oulare a physical targetman and Iseka set to bring plenty of experience from the French top flight to the wide forward roles in the Reds’ front three.
Schopp has other scorers such as midfielder Callum Styles and defenders who can threaten from set pieces, as well as burst forward in attack as shown by Toby Sibbick on Saturday.
FANS HAVE MADE DIFFERENCE IN TWO NOISY AWAY ENDS
Having supporters back in stadiums totally transforms football games.
The cheers, ironic or genuine, the reactions to good and bad moments for their team, the familiar and new songs, and generally excited hubbub throughout the match were all sadly missed during the 60 behind-closed-doors the Reds played in 2020 and 2021.
After 863 fans made one of the longest trips of the season to Cardiff on Saturday to occupy Barnsley’s first away end in almost 18 months, 1,608 supporters were at Bolton in midweek.
Those numbers will obviously increase significantly when the Reds host Coventry City tomorrow and then Luton Town on Tuesday, as many fans return to Oakwell for the first time if they were not among the 4,000 who watched May’s play-off match.
BEN RETURN EASES LEFT-BACK WORRY BUT STRENGTH NEEDED
Ben Williams’ solid performance at Cardiff on Saturday, in his first game in 400 days due to injury, slightly eased the urgent need to recruit in that position.
But the Reds clearly want another natural leftwing-back to compete with him, and that is their main priority going into the final weeks of the summer window.
They are also understood to be considering bringing in a more experienced central midfielder.
In Callum Styles, Josh Benson, Romal Palmer and Herbie Kane they have the talent and potential to replace former captain Alex Mowatt’s footballing abilities, but whether they will have the leadership and knowhow he provided is a question mark.
Barnsley now have two and a half weeks to focus on finding the final pieces of the puzzle which could set them up for another exciting season.
They are willing to take their time, determined to find the right deal for the right player.
SCHOPP’S STYLE WORKING WELL BUT HOW WILL OAKWELL REACT?
Barnsley have passed the ball around their penalty area and built up from the back successfully and without any major scares in the first two games.
There are bound to be some grumblings from the Oakwell terraces about it tomorrow but, as long as they avoid errors, it is a style of play that many fans will get behind. The mixture of Schopp’s patient build-up and his predecessor Valerien Ismael’s direct approach will take time to fully evolve, but there were positive signs in Cardiff especially.
‘WINNABLE’ HOME GAMES THIS WEEK MAY TELL US MORE
After a positive point at Cardiff and a cup game with a much-changed team that can largely be ignored, the next two matches should provide more of an idea of where Barnsley are at the moment.
Coventry City, tomorrow’s visitors, and Luton Town, who come to Oakwell on Tuesday, have both established themselves in the Championship after promotion while they each won their opening games of this season.
But home games against them are the kind of fixtures that, if the Reds want to replicate last season’s top six finish which is their stated aim, they would like to be picking up at least four points from – ideally six.
Barnsley then visit Queens Park Rangers before a home game with Birmingham City finishes off an opening month in which they have the potential to bring in valuable points.
There is then a two-week international break.
After winning one of their first 17 games in 2019/20 and none of their first seven last season, they will be looking to make a far better start this time.