Analysis of Barnsley's 2-0 home win over Oxford United thanks to a brace by Slobodan Tedic.
REDS ON BEST HOME FORM SINCE WW1
IF YOU can remember Barnsley’s last sequence of nine successive home league wins in one season - the 1914/15 campaign - we at the Chronicle would love to hear from you.
Given there are thought to only be about 50 people in the UK now who were alive at the time, that may not happen.
On a more serious note, it is extraordinary that the Reds have achieved their longest run of home victories since the start of the First World War.
They infamously finished third in the second tier that season but, when the conflict ended in 1918, Arsenal were voted into the top flight instead - despite having finished sixth.
Barnsley could be denied by a side who finishes below them again in the play-offs but their formidable home form will make them extremely tough opponents, while their top two chances have not been totally extinguished yet.
The current run began when James Norwood scored an overhead kick against Accrington Stanley on January 21.
They have since gained wins with ten men over both Cambridge and Shrewsbury, high-scoring victories over promotion rivals Derby, Plymouth and Sheffield Wednesday and a 5-0 thrashing of Morecambe. They have played some excellent football and thrilled a fanbase who, one year exactly before this match, were despondent as relegation was confirmed at the end of a dire campaign.
This result meant they could still equal a club record for home victories in a campaign and that they had collected as many wins, 26, as in the last promotion season in 2018/19, which began with a 4-0 beating of Oxford.
RESULTS GO AGAINST THEM BUT IPSWICH GAME STILL HUGE
Barnsley did their part in the complicated and difficult equation that could see them finish in the top two but, unfortunately for them, all three sides above them also won.
That left them six points off the top two with just three matches left, although the next one is at home to second-placed Ipswich on Tuesday so they could halve the deficit going into the final week.
With Ipswich having a much better goal difference, and the Reds also needing to overtake one of Wednesday or Plymouth, the odds are firmly stacked against them.
They can still reach 94 points which, despite being better than their club record and enough to secure the top two in every other 46-game season at this level, might not be sufficient as Plymouth already have 92 and Ipswich 91.
The Reds will look to continue their good recent record against top sides at Oakwell in midweek and inflict a rare defeat on in-form Ipswich which could make the Suffolk club nervous. Ipswich have won 11 of their last 12, conceding twice in that run, while they are the top-scorers in English football. It was hoped they might slip up at another top six side Peterborough but they won 3-0 on Saturday.
Barnsley will look for the strongest finish possible to either pinch automatic promotion or, more realistically, go into the play-offs on fine form.
REDS PLAY GOOD STUFF IN COMFORTABLE WIN
Oxford arrived a point and a place above the relegation zone on a 16-match winless run and having scored just twice in the previous eight away matches.
They never looked likely to record their first win over the Reds this century, in five attempts, and instead fell to an 11th loss in 13 visits to Oakwell.
Towards the end of Barnsley’s 2-1 win at Oxford on February 1, they were put under one of the most intense periods of pressure they have experienced all season.
But, although the Us had the first chance of this match and should have pulled one back late on, this was a far more routine victory for the Reds.
Michael Duff’s side played some good football, passing crisply through the big spaces between their flat-footed visitors regularly as they were much better on the ball than in a tougher assignment at Lincoln four days earlier.
They worked good opportunities to swing in high-quality crosses and their strikers were on the end of them - with hard work on the training ground paying off.
Oxford’s only fit out and out striker, teenager Gatlin O’Donkor, came off injured after 25 minutes.
Had he scored a decent chance at 0-0 in the ninth minute, hitting the side netting after a Mads Andersen error, the game could have been different as Barnsley have not come from behind to win this season.
But the flip side to that is that, on the 28 occasions they have taken the lead, the Reds have won 26 - only drawing at home to Port Vale in September and at Accrington on Boxing Day.
O’Donkor was part of a starting front four aged 22, 21, 19 and 18 with Duff suspecting they wanted extra energy and running ability.
It did not work as Barnsley were largely untroubled at the back, dominant in midfield and had a clinical striker up front.
TEDIC NETS TWICE ON FULL HOME LEAGUE DEBUT
Slobodan Tedic marked his full home league debut for the club, eight months after joining, with his first two Oakwell goals either side of half-time.
They were fine finishes with his right foot then head, while his hold-up play and passing were also good in an all-round excellent performance which rightly earned a standing ovation when taken off plus the man of the match award.
His progress has been remarkable after struggling to get on the bench earlier in the season, with Duff praising him afterwards for working hard on his deficiencies during the season.
His brace meant Tedic - who replaced James Norwood in the starting line-up - had scored three goals in three games as well as four in just over three hours of league football since ending a 17-match wait for a first goal at Wycombe last month.
Another player making his first home start in the league was Ziyad Larkeche who had previously been given 109 minutes of league action at Oakwell across nine substitute appearances since arriving in September.
He had another solid game, before again going off with suspected cramp, but has probably not done quite enough to keep his place at left wing-back when Nicky Cadden returns from suspension on Tuesday.
TWO ASSISTS FOR IMPRESSIVE PHILLIPS
Both Tedic’s goals came from fine right-wing crosses by Adam Phillips who moved onto eight assists for the season along with his nine league goals.
The midfielder impressed all afternoon with his work-rate, passing and delivery from wide - being unlucky not to record a hat-trick of assists.
It was a superb performance from a player who has added significant attacking threat to the Reds’ side.
Alongside Phillips in midfield, Herbie Kane completed 92.5 per cent of his passes in yet another impressive display for arguably Barnsley’s most consistent performer this season. Kane - who was on loan to Oxford last season - also played with abundant energy and was involved in some of their good first half moves.
Luca Connell again anchored the midfield well while there were good displays across the backline.
Liam Kitching was involved in both goals and also saved off the line midway through the second half from a Kyle Joseph shot.
Harry Isted pushed away Cameron Brannagan’s powerful first half free-kick then, in injury-time, somehow clawed out of his top right corner a header by Yanic Wildschut who had also shot wide from 12 yards minutes before.