A look at Barnsley’s fixtures in the next month as they try to build on excellent run
SEPTEMBER was by far Barnsley’s best month of a year which had generally been miserable but now appears capable of having a very positive autumn and winter.
The Reds went into the month after two poor 3-0 home defeats and a transfer deadline day in which they failed to bring in the strikers head coach Michael Duff wanted.
But a wonderful victory at local rivals Sheffield Wednesday started a month in which they won four games and drawn one of their five matches in all competitions.
As well as the Hillsborough success, they also memorably triumphed 3-0 at Cambridge United with ten men then gave the home fans an encouraging 3-1 win over Charlton Athletic.
New signings and returns from injury have swelled the options at wing-back and in midfield while the questions over goal threats are starting to be answered, to some extent, with Devante Cole and James Norwood joining Josh Benson in finding the net regularly.
At this point last season, Barnsley were losing at home to Nottingham Forest and Millwall – with fans turning vehemently against Markus Schopp, and players openly questioning him.
That could not be further from the current situation as supporters appear very much behind Michael Duff who looks to have unified the squad and built some early momentum.
The last time the Reds were in League One, in 2018/19, they had collected 19 points after ten games. To have 17 at the same stage this time – despite a far more tumultuous summer in much more difficult financial circumstances with early games against several promotion favourites – is a very impressive start.
Now they must build on it and attempt to solidify their place in the top six, or above.
Two of their six scheduled October league opponents are currently in the relegation zone while only Bolton Wanderers are in the top nine.
They have never played Morecambe or Forest Green Rovers before in the league, while Exeter City and Lincoln City have not visited Oakwell in the league for more than 40 years.
Duff will be drilling into them throughout that they cannot afford any complacency but a points haul in double figures should realistically be the minimum requirement.
That would keep them well in the promotion hunt with more than a third of the season played heading into a much quieter November.
FLEETWOOD TOWN, away, tomorrow
The Reds have had some very tough away games so far this season.
They took four points in their first four matches on the road at expected promotion-chasers Plymouth, Derby, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday, with performances improving.
Then they were drawn against clubs who were less fancied but unbeaten going into the fixture.
After winning 3-0 with ten men at Cambridge, who had won all four previous home league games, they now visit Fleetwood Town who have not lost at home this season.
Barnsley will be looking for a third successive away win, having triumphed in the last two to double their tally of wins on the road last season.
If they get a point at Fleetwood, they will equal last season’s total of eight on the road.
Mid-table Town are the only club the Reds play in October who they have beaten in a league meeting this century.
EXETER CITY, home, October 8
This will be the Devon club’s first visit to Oakwell since 1981.
They are currently tenth, having been promoted from League Two last season.
Their form has been patchy – for example following a home defeat to bottom club Burton Albion with a 4-0 win at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday.
They also won 7-0 at Duff’s former club Cheltenham in the EFL Cup in August before losing 1-0 at home to them in the league the next week.
No manager has won more games against Michael Duff than Exeter boss Matt Taylor.
A couple of Reds players may have a point to prove as Robbie Cundy did not play for the Grecians in a 2019 loan from Bristol City which was cut short, while James Norwood played just four league games in a two-year spell at the start of his career.
Three days later, Barnsley complete their EFL Trophy group fixtures with the short trip to League Two Doncaster Rovers.
BOLTON WANDERERS, away, October 15
In theory, this should be Barnsley’s most difficult game of the month.
The Trotters – having stabilised last season following promotion – are expected by many to compete for the top six this season. They are currently sixth, with wins in their last three league matches and the best defensive record. Barnsley have not beaten Bolton in 13 attempts since 1998 with seven losses and six draws while they have not won in any of their eight visits to the University of Bolton Stadium.
Wanderers have ex-Reds Lloyd Isgrove, Gethin Jones and Declan John while current Red Luca Connell began his career with them as a teenager when they were being relegated from the Championship in 2019.
MORECAMBE, away, October 22
This will be Barnsley’s third trip of the month to the North West but their first ever to Morecambe.
Reds fans are likely to travel in large numbers to a new ground, with the intention of filling a large portion of it and drowning out the home support.
The two clubs have faced each other previously in two EFL Cup games at Oakwell – Morecambe winning 2-0 in 2011 then losing 4-3 in 2017.
The Shrimps are currently in the relegation zone and yet to win at home, with high-flying Ipswich visiting before this game.
Adam Phillips could return to the club where he made his name on loan from Burnley.
Morecambe have so far made the most fouls in the division, with Barnsley third.
LINCOLN CITY, home, October 25
This Tuesday night game will be the 72nd meeting of these clubs but the first in the league since 1976.
The Imps have already won at Oakwell this season, 3-0 in the EFL Trophy in August as they scored two early goals before James Norwood was sent off in the 23rd minute.
That was a fifth meeting with Lincoln for Michael Duff who has never beaten them.
The Imps are mid-table, having won their most recent league match 6-3 at Bristol Rovers.
October may show what they are capable of as they face high-flyers such as Bolton, Ipswich and Sheffield Wednesday as well as the Reds.
Former Barnsley centre-back Adam Jackson has just returned from injury.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS, home, October 29
This will be the first ever meeting between Barnsley and the Gloucestershire club.
The vegan club – who have won two of ten matches this season – will have hoped to have climbed out of the relegation zone by the time they visit Oakwell.
The Reds have several former Forest Green players.
Brad Collins, Liam Kitching and James Norwood all made their names there, while Jack Aitchison and Nicky Cadden helped them to promotion last season.
Manager Rob Edwards, the ex-Red who left them in the summer, was sacked by Watford this week.
Barnsley then go into a November with just two league games scheduled – away at Shrewsbury and at home to MK Dons – after beginning with an FA Cup first round fixture.