Analysis from Barnsley's 3-1 defeat at home to Oxford United. Mael de Givegney conceded an early penalty then Jordan Williams scored an goal own. Devante Cole pulled one back but the Reds were beaten.


Barnsley’s 2-0 win over Oxford in April gave them a ninth straight home victory - the best such sequence since 1914/15 after a brilliant run which saw a succession of promotion rivals humbled.

Less than four months later, they suffered a second 3-1 home defeat in four days thanks to their worst performance of a stuttering start to the season.

They conceded eight minutes into both halves then, after pulling one back and briefly threatening to level, let in another late on.

There were some boos when captain Liam Kitching - one of several players performing well below their best - lost the ball for a big chance midway through the second half but was bailed out a one-on-one save by goalkeeper, Liam Roberts, one of the few good performers.

Then there were many more boos after the game, during which any positivity generated by chairman Neerav Parekh’s promise the previous night that key players would not be sold and Adam Phillips’ new contract dissipated quickly.

Barnsley are trying to play more of a possession-based passing game under Neill Collins, building up from the back, but it often looks pedestrian and aimless - although they did play some decent football further forward in the first half.

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They are not pressing in the organised, ruthless way we have seen in the past and it is clear that the new head coach has not been able to get his ideas across fully after a busy first six weeks in the job.

‘Concentration and communication’ were the watchwords used in the pre-match press conference, but the total opposite happened on the pitch as Barnsley were once again sloppy and disjointed.

Oxford had won their last two games earlier in the week, including on Tuesday at promotion favourites Derby, so had more points than the Reds after the first three games.

The Us scored more goals in this game than in their other 13 trips to Oakwell while it was their first win against the Reds in five meetings since 1999.


After a frenetic first fortnight of the season, Barnsley have four points from four games.

It is extremely early days but that is a paltry total when you consider their promotion aims and 7-0 opening day win.

The home fans have seen their team play four times already, with the stunning start followed by three defeats and some poor performances.

It was hoped that they could make a sharp start after that let them down last season but they have plenty of work to do to become a promotion-challenger.

Collins says the beginning has been ‘underpar’.

They now have a week on the training pitch with no midweek game and, after a tough trip to Wigan, the same again before visiting Cheltenham Town who are currently the only EFL team yet to score this season.

That will give Collins vital time to work on the training pitch after games every few days in the opening weeks.

There is a two-week break until the next home league game - another tough one against Portsmouth.

By that time, the Reds will hope to have key men back fit and important new signings, as well as players unsettled by the transfer window refocused.


Mael de Givegney had a nightmare full debut for Barnsley.

The centre-back, who has been at Oakwell for a fortnight after signing from Nimes who were relegated to the French third tier last season, clearly tripped Marcus Browne in the box in the seventh minute with Oxford scoring the penalty.

It was a poor and clumsy tackle but he never would have had to make it if it had not been for Herbie Kane losing the ball deep in his half.

De Givegney was then booked for a wild tackle near the halfway line on 22 minutes and, soon after, pulled back an attacker who had beaten him on the left wing.

Martin Coy did not even give a free-kick but another referee on another day could easily have sent de Givegney off. He was fortunate not to join the likes of Carl Regan, Emmanuel Frimpong, Dale Jennings, Alex Mowatt and Michal Helik in being dismissed on their full league Barnsley debut.

Collins had seen enough and, worried about playing more than half the game with ten men, took the Frenchman off after 37 minutes for Barry Cotter.

In hindsight, dropping Cotter - who was man of the match in the previous game - was an error.

But Collins must have seen more on the training pitch - albeit in limited sessions due to the busy game schedule - than de Givegney showed in his horrible start to his Barnsley career.

He should not be written off after half a game but it would be surprising to see him in the 11 at Wigan.


De Givegney was certainly not the only poor performer and many others who were far more experienced in League One than him fell well below their best.

Kane and Callum Styles started in central midfield - with Adam Phillips the number ten. Kane and Styles are a talented duo but neither is a natural holding midfielder like the dropped Jon Russell or ill Luca Connell.

They struggled early on, losing the ball regularly in the opening minutes including Kane’s error for the opener, then looked flat and lacking in ideas throughout the remainder of the match.

Kane had made comments in the pre-match press conference about more signings being needed. But the watching board and recruitment department may have been thinking that he also needs to play better.

‘Herbie Kane, he wants you to lose’ sang the Oxford fans about their former loan star.

Styles was very energetic early on and produced some good touches, but he has made little impact on the pitch so far this season in terms of match-deciding moments. He has not looked worth his £2million release clause.

Kitching, as well as gifting Mark Harris a golden chance at 2-0, was beaten very easily for the last two goals.

He was glided past in a way that simply wasn’t happening to him last season.

The popular explanation is that he has had his head turned by interest from other clubs this window and the Reds’ refusal to sell him. But that may be too simplistic as he was also the player driving Barnsley forward in the first half, at the heart of many of their better moves, and set up a big late chance for an Aiden Marsh leveller. He appears to be lacking his usual pace when defenders run at him, as if he is not fully fit.

Kacper Lopata was the best of the starting back three but made an error for the final goal.

Jordan Williams is another regular who has had a rough start to the season. He started in his natural position of right wing-back but, after de Givegney’s removal, moved back into the back three - scoring an unfortunate own goal. That came after Kitching and Nicky Cadden - again a threat on the attack - were beaten far too easily.

At the other end, Andy Dallas made his first league start for the club and struggled to make an impact, slicing badly wide when he had a fine chance to level in the first half. That will only strengthen calls for a new striker to arrive.


Devante Cole netted his fourth goal of the season in four games and was singled out for praise by Collins afterwards.

The head coach said: “I am sure the fans would appreciate that’s what we expect from 11 players. But we didn’t get the spirit and desire that Devante showed."

Cole is second in the early League One scoring charts while the only other goals since the opening day have been strikes from tight angles by wing-backs which are unlikely to be repeated regularly. He is the best current attacking threat by far.

Cole completed 100 per cent of his passes, set up a big early chance for Dallas and then led the late fight back.

After scoring, he was inches away from tapping in a shot across goal by young substitute Marsh who should have scored but looked more threatening than some of his older club-mates have this season.

Cole then was denied one-on-one by the goalkeeper after a rapid counter-attack he started by heading out a corner before good work by Marsh and Russell.

Cole had a shot cleared off the line in injury-time following a Cadden corner.

Subs Russell, Marsh and Cotter - who helped start the attempted comeback by winning the corner from which Cole scored as well as some other good wing play - may have deficiencies in their games but they bring an intensity and passion to the cause which has been lacking.

Phillips, on his first start after suspension, was a threat throughout but perhaps slightly rusty in front of goal.