Analysis of Barnsley's 0-0 draw with Blackburn Rovers at Oakwell on Saturday
6-GAME WINLESS RUN MUST END BEFORE NEXT BREAK
When these sides meet again in the final match of an extraordinary 2021 for the Reds, they will hope to visit Ewood Park in a very different situation to the one they are currently in.
Barnsley are due to make the reverse trip across the Pennines on December 29 in what are likely to be very different conditions to the sweltering September sun in which they played out with stalemate.
Markus Schopp will hope his team is also in avery different condition.
Currently they are stuttering along at a point per game which will put them nowhere near last season’s fifth place finish but is certainly not a disaster considering all the players who are missing and the fact they have mainly played top ten sides.
With three teams in the bottom eight to play in the final week before the next international break, and several players set to return this week, they cannot allow this six-game winless run to stretch much longer.
New chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad was in the directors' box for the first time, wearing a Reds shirt under a smart suit jacket, along with owners Paul Conway, Neerav Parekh and James Cryne.
They must have taken some encouragement from what they saw against Blackburn but know that there must be much more to come from this squad.
ONE OF BEST PERFORMANCES OF SEASON BUT ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
Saturday’s match was not a classic but there were positives for the hosts.
Barnsley, despite having six first team players out, had 60 per cent possession and the majority of the chances while they kept their first clean sheet in six matches.
It was their best home performance of the season - although it is slim pickings in that regard so far - while it was probably their most consistent 90 minutes. It was the first time this season that they did not lose control of at least a portion of the game with the opposition well on top as the Reds looked comfortable in Schopp’s passing style.
Both squads averaged 22.9 in age but, although they included six academy players, Blackburn's starting line-up had almost double the amount of Championship games on their CVs as Barnsley's, particularly in their back four.
Blackburn, like many of the teams Barnsley have played this season, have made a decent start - with 12 points from their first seven games. But they were probably the least impressive of all Barnsley’s opponents this season, certainly in terms of chances created and pressure applied. Manager Tony Mowbray - who avoided a sixth straight loss at Oakwell - admitted he set up to be solid rather than attack as he was worried about Barnsley’s press and counter-attack so they sat back with the likes of right-back Ryan Nyambe, who has caused chaos against the Reds in the past, barely venturing forward.
That meant Rovers were very hard to break down but Barnsley still created several chances mainly from set pieces or moments of collective or individual skill.
MISSED CHANCES AGAIN THE ISSUE
Not for the first time this season, the Reds missed big chances as a lack of clinical finishing remains a major problem.
They have scored just twice in their last four matches and they were both stunning long-range strikes by Cauley Woodrow and Callum Styles which they cannot expect to repeat regularly. The Reds must find a regular route to goal but, looking through their current team, very few players have a consistent track record of scoring at Championship level. Of the starting 11, four players had netted more than once in the second tier and three of them were centre-backs or wing-backs.
Clarke Oduor – after a boring first 20 minutes – lit the match up with a wonderful run past two defenders but was denied one-on-one by the goalkeeper.
The Kenyan international – who kicked the post in frustration afterwards – was probably the only Reds player who could have gone on that kind of run but several others would have been better-equipped to finish.
Michal Helik, twice, Dominik Frieser and Callum Brittain all came close to goals while, at the other end, Brad Collins had two saves to make in the last 20 minutes.
YOUNGSTERS STEPPING UP
Due to a series of absences, Schopp has had to play players out of position and use several who were expected to be back-up. Those players generally did well in this match which suggests there is some strength in depth.
Either side of the excellent Michal Helik, centre-backs Aapo Halme and Jasper Moon both had solid games as they have adapted well after being thrust into the team in the absence of Liam Kitching and Mads Andersen. Moon in particular impressed with some excellent tackles and was awarded man of the match.
Central midfielder Claudio Gomes made his first senior start ever and produced a mixed performance, passing well at times but also struggling with the Championship's physicality and losing the ball deep in his half on one occasion which is becoming a worrying habit for him.
Gomes was joined after the break by another French-born midfielder in Will Hondermarck, so Barnsley's central two at that point had six senior appearances between them. Hondermarck – who gave a whole-hearted and disciplined performance – only signed a contract eight days earlier and, due to others’ absences, has since played his fourth and fifth professional games having never appeared higher than League Two.
SQUAD TO BE FLESHED OUT THIS WEEK
Liam Kitching, who watched from the West Stand, has now finished his suspension while Josh Benson’s Covid quarantine ends on Sunday. Jordan and Ben Williams, along with Romal Palmer, could be in contention to return from injury at Blackpool on Saturday while Obbi Oulare is getting closer. Those will be major boosts and transform a Reds squad that had been looking extremely threadbare.
With Mads Andersen and Carlton Morris also set to return to the team over the next several weeks, Barnsley will only get stronger - provided they stop picking up the frustrating injuries which have held them back thus far.