Analysis of Barnsley’s 3-0 FA Cup second round win over Crewe Alexandra. Devante Cole, Adam Phillips and Josh Benson netted for the hosts.
REDS BECOMING REGULAR WINNERS WITH 14TH OF SEASON
THIS was Barnsley’s 14th win of the season in all competitions - double their tally from last season with at least 29 games left.
The Reds wanted to create a ‘winning culture’ this season and, while there is still a long way to go, they have made huge progress in the training ground, dressing room and on the pitch in the last six months or so under Michael Duff.
Obviously playing in League One rather than the Championship helps, but it is more than that. In their last FA Cup game at Oakwell, in January, they lost the lead three times against ten man Barrow before some poor refereeing helped them win 5-4 in extra-time. They thought they had the game won at half-time when two goals and a man up.
The game against Crewe was a stark contrast to that nail-biter for Poya Asbaghi’s depleted and disorganised rabble who had no control of the game and folded every time they were put under pressure.
This time, showing how far they have come, Barnsley produced a professional and focused performance to outclass a League Two struggler in the way they should.
The Reds - who played their strongest possible outfield side - are slowly turning into a club that wins regularly again with a stronger mentality and togetherness.
The first half was not a great spectacle but Barnsley were in control and the only side creating chances, one of which was taken by Devante Cole.
The Railwaymen - who had not conceded in six and a half hours in all competitions and had won their last three matches - then had their tickets punched early in the second half with two more goals.
Their only shots on target came when the game was over as a contest and the Reds were resting players while giving minutes to 17-year-olds such as Fabio Jalo and debutant Theo Chapman.
REDS ON FINE FORM WITH CUP RUN HELPING
It was an enjoyable afternoon for the 3,507 home fans, with just the East Stand open.
The crowd will be far bigger should Barnsley come up against the Premier League side they want in Monday’s third round draw.
Duff has admitted a big-money cup run could help them significantly in the transfer market in January while the players will be keen to test themselves against world class opponents.
Focus in the new year will probably soon turn fully to a promotion challenge but a glorious cup run would help that momentum despite congesting the fixture list slightly.
The Reds have now won their last three home games while scoring eight goals while in total they have won five out of six, with the loss being with a much-changed side in the EFL Trophy.
COLE ON WAY TO DECENT GOAL TOTAL
Cole started that run with a goal against Forest Green Rovers and, should he continue at his current goal rate all season, will net between 12 and 15 goals.
In a campaign in which the Reds have been extremely low on strikers, he has been a consistent presence up front and, for the most part, a good performer.
He was in the right place at the right time for his goal.
His hold-up play, on Saturday and in other games, has been excellent – with the ability to hold off defenders but also bamboozle them with skill.
James Norwood – starting for the first time in a month due to injury – was more quiet, although he played a part in the second goal before limping off with a dead leg.
There is slightly less pressure on the forwards to score goals now the midfielders are netting regularly – especially Adam Phillips who made it four goals in his last five games. He is driving forward, adding extra strength and height in the middle and showing excellent composure when he gets chances. It is hard to believe that, before November, he had barely made any impact and some were questioning why he had been given a three-year contract.
Phillips was part of a three-man midfield that totally dominated their visitors who changed formation from their usual 4-2-3-1 to 3-5-2 to match their hosts but could never gain any control.
Luca Connell’s set pieces set up the first goal and other chances while he anchored the midfield well as usual and also showed he can get contribute in attack by winning the penalty.
Herbie Kane’s return from injury has been key in the upturn in form. A leader on the pitch in a young side, he helped dictate the game and was a cut above Crewe.
BENSON IMPRESSES OUT OF POSITION
There was a fourth central midfielder on the pitch for Barnsley in Josh Benson who was used out of position at right wing-back with Jordan Williams not involved due to a knock.
Benson put in a fine shift, motoring up and down the right wing, doing his defensive work well, and capping the display with a confident penalty for his fifth goal of the season and first since the 3-1 home win over Charlton in September. Benson has been dropped recently for Phillips in league games so it will have been very pleasing for him to be back in the starting line-up.
Right wing-back could be where he gets some football going forward with Williams sometimes struggling for fitness and no other options there currently. There will be more difficult tests to come but this was a good start.
It is also a position in which the Reds may think about adding back-up in January if possible.