SATURDAY was a frustrating day for Barnsley FC, but they are still in a very strong position going into the busy Christmas and New Year period.
After a week of low temperatures, the Reds’ match at Oxford United was eventually called off at 9.30am.
Referee Charles Breakspear had inspected the icy playing surface accompanied by managers Karl Robinson and Michael Duff.
While it meant some supporters could watch the England game at home that night, many Reds fans had trains and hotels booked while some were already on their way when the news come through.
In terms of the Reds’ progress, they will clearly wanted to have kept playing as they are on an excellent form with four successive league wins.
The majority of League One games did take place, with only leaders Ipswich winning out of the top eight and Barnsley staying fourth with two games in hand on the majority of the top half.
Of course it is still too early to really pore over the league table, and the most important factor is to maintain good performances and results over the next few months. But the Reds are in a decent position to increase the gap between them and the sides below the top six while catching up with the top three who are nine points ahead but have each played two more games than Barnsley.
They need a good January, with more strength in depth arriving up front and at right wing-back while backing up Michael Duff's confidence that no first team players will be sold. But, if that happens, the injury list does not grow longer and they maintain something close to their current form, they will be in a strong position to challenge for at least a place in the top six.
BARNSLEY HAVE BEST DEFENSIVE RECORD IN LEAGUE ONE
The Reds are now likely to face long midweek trip in the New Year to Oxford who might be in a better position and more confident since many people, including Michael Duff, expect them to still compete for promotion this season.
But the positive is that they are more likely to have Tom Edwards back in action the next time they playing, having had an extra week to rest his injured knee. That could be crucial with doubts also surrounding the long-term fitness of right wing-back Jordan Williams.
Edwards has been a key part of the back three which has helped Barnsley to the best defensive record in League One with just 16 goals conceded in 19 games.
The only teams in English professional football who have conceded fewer goals than the Reds are League Two leaders Leyton Orient as well as Premier League top three Arsenal, Manchester City and Newcastle United.
Their midfield is starting to contribute with goals and creativity while the strikers – although the front line is in need of strengthening in January – are chipping in with some goals and setting the tone with their pressing and work-rate.
STRUGGLING BURTON UP NEXT AT OAKWELL
Barnsley will hope for all of that to continue when they host Burton Albion on Saturday, with victory giving them their highest points tally at the 20-game mark in 41 years.
The Brewers are third-bottom with three wins in 21 games. It is a third straight home league game against a side in the relegation zone and many will expect another victory against the team with the worst defensive record in English football.
But Burton have drawn their last three matches, including against one of Barnsley’s top ten rivals Derby County on Saturday.
They also have one of the most in-form strikers in the division in Victor Adeboyejo, who will probably be fired up to net against the club he left last summer. He is the third top-scorer in the division and has already netted 12 goals this season compared to nine in 97 games across five years at Oakwell.
With Burton at home then a Boxing Day trip to another struggler Accrington Stanley, there is an opportunity for a merry Christmas which will leave the Reds more firmly entrenched in the top six before they finish the year at home to Fleetwood Town on Thursday, December 29.
But they must play well and also prove that they have grown out of the habit earlier in the season of producing lethargic, poor performances against lowly sides they were expected to beat.
They have shown good signs of that with comfortable wins against Forest Green, MK Dons then Crewe in the FA Cup.
FIRST GOAL SEEMS VITAL IN BARNSLEY GAMES
Another thing they will have to improve is their ability to come from behind in games.
When the Reds have conceded the first goal in league games this season, they have drawn one and lost five.
When scoring the first goal, they have won ten and drawn one – at home to Port Vale who netted a late leveller in September.
As a young side still recovering from the ravages of last season, they have struggled to respond to in-game setbacks.
However, there are positives signs on this as well after they conceded equalisers in their last two league games to MK Dons and Peterborough but still managed to win.