An in-depth look at yesterday's 1-1 draw with Birmingham City at Oakwell.
STYLES GIVES REDS PERFECT START
At the end of a terrific sixth-minute move which started in the Barnsley penalty area, Callum Styles curled wonderful shot into the top left corner.
Styles' goal was the latest in a long list of stunners he has netted for the Reds, but the first the fans have seen live so a special moment on the 21-year-old's 50th league start for the club.
It was a second superb strike in this fixture this year after Daryl Dike's March thunderbolt. Styles said later that none of his family were there as they attended his sister's baby shower instead.
He started at wing-back but, when Barnsley had possession, he drifted into the middle and centre-back Liam Kitching patrolled the left flank – a potential compromise for Styles who wants to play in the middle but has been mainly used on the left by three separate head coaches now. He had a fine game, battling well in his defensive duties and showing silky skills on the ball.
The goal was assisted by the impressive Clarke Oduor who played Styles through again later in the second half only for the scorer to take a heavy touch.
SIBBICK ERROR EVENS THE GAME
Toby Sibbick is a talented defender who has turned his Oakwell career around in 2021 while, aged 22, he is still learning his trade like most of his team-mates.
But, on 33 minutes, he inexplicably chose to allow the ball to loop over his head deep into his box, presumably not realising Lukas Jutkiewicz was lurking between him and his goalkeeper. You simply cannot give a man with 88 Championship goals that opportunity and the veteran striker finished well.
After that, Sibbick looked short of confidence and was beaten several times in the air or on the floor for Birmingham's regular attacks and chances then was substituted with six minutes left.
With Mads Andersen due to return from injury next month, Sibbick currently seems the most likely to drop out of the back three but certainly has a bright future at the club as a very good defensive prospect.
He is not the only one who has made mistakes.
Kitching gifted Scott Hogan a major chance as he continues to make at least one big error per game, while – not the first time this season – he was involved in a flare-up as he was accused of head butting Chuks Aneke.
SIX POINTS FROM FIVE NOT GREAT BUT IT'S A START
When Barnsley trudged off the Oakwell field and into the first international break of the season, it felt as if they had already been through a lot this campaign despite just playing five games.
The Reds have lost star men Carlton Morris and Mads Andersen to injury, been without new strikers Obbi Oulare and Aaron Leya Iseka through visa delays, and are trying to adapt to Markus Schopp's new passing style while living up to expectations after last year's play-off defeat.
On the pitch, there have been some encouraging displays against five teams currently in the top half but, if Cardiff, Coventry and Birmingham had scored just half of their clear-cut chances each, the Reds would have just one point and have lost all three of their home matches.
Birmingham had won 5-0 at Luton a week earlier, who beat Barnsley in the last Oakwell fixture and could have almost repeated that tally if their finishing had been better - especially that of former Reds trialist Scott Hogan.
But those chances were missed – with the Reds deserving some credit for showing character to hold on while under the cosh – and Barnsley have more points than after five games in their previous two seasons.
The last time fans watched this fixture, the Reds were nine points adrift from safety, so the club has come a long way.
Six months ago, wins in the same week at QPR and at home to Birmingham catapulted the Reds into the top six for the first time in two decades.
This time they have lost leads in the same fixtures but collected two points which may prove useful come the end of the season.
This start is a platform, albeit a modest one, to launch from when they return after the international break, ideally with new signings, Andersen back fit and the Belgians available – all of which will give Schopp more options, especially off the bench which has looked weak of late.
PASSING STYLE LED TO GOAL BUT ALSO LATER PROBLEMS
They will also have two more weeks to work on Schopp's passing play-out-from-the-back style, which continues to be played brilliantly in small glimpses but can also look messy at times.
It is one thing to play that kind of football against a QPR side determined to pass out from the back themselves, but they also did so against one of the toughest and most experienced teams in the Championship who have a far more direct style.
The Blues started eight players who had played more 70 Championship games, compared to only Cauley Woodrow in Barnsley's team while the visitors had the eight oldest starters.
The Reds started brilliantly with the goal but that was their only real chance of the entire game as they were slowly pushed back even before City were helped by an error by Toby Sibbick which led to the leveller.
Although Barnsley occasionally played good football on the counter-attack, those occasions became more and more rare.
Schopp said that Birmingham were very wily, destroying Barnsley's rhythm and momentum by turning the game into one full of set-pieces – including the regular long throws of former Reds captain Marc Roberts.
Barnsley currently have a tendency to lose control of games and, with a very young team, do not seem to be able to adapt or manage their way out of some situations.
Eventually Barnsley were just inviting pressure, nervously passing the ball around their box before being pressed into a sliced clearance which was collected by the Blues who launched another attack.
Barnsley's front three became increasingly isolated as, with the team struggling to play the ball up the pitch and hold it in the Birmingham half, they badly missed a targetman with Oulare sitting in the directors' box.
Birmingham's back five had more than than 1,000 Championship appearances between them with four of them brought in for £2million or more, and they were barely troubled after conceding a goal that Lee Bowyer said they could do little about.
COLE AND KANE FUTURES IN DOUBT
Markus Schopp said post-match that it was a 'technical decision' to leave Devante Cole and Herbie Kane out of the matchday squad.
The head coach would rather have centre-backs Jasper Moon and Aapo Halme as midfield cover than Kane, and chose untested forwards George Miller and Cameron Thompson for the bench over 26-year-old Cole who signed a three-year contract in June before Schopp arrived.
That does not bode well for their playing time under him and, although things can change, raises the question of whether they, especially Kane, could leave before Tuesday's transfer deadline.
The Reds are willing to move on a few fringe players, while still hoping to recruit a left wing-back and central midfielder.
Schopp again said he wanted experience but it seems unlikely they will recruit someone with hundreds of games on his CV.