Analysis of Barnsley's 1-0 home defeat to Blackpool on Saturday.
REDS STILL STRUGGLE AT HOME AND AGAINST TEAMS TIPPED FOR PROMOTION
Blackpool’s last two visits to Oakwell were right at the end of one fantastic season then a terrible one. This game, which followed a similar pattern to much of this season, hinted that - unless the Reds make significant improvements - this campaign could be bang average.
The Reds beat the Tangerines 2-1 in 2019, which would ultimately secure promotion to the Championship, but lost 2-0 in April last year with a pathetic performance days after relegation back into League One was confirmed.
While it was not as desperate as the latter there was little on Saturday to suggest they will be celebrating like 2019 in April or May.
They did not look at all like the top-scorers in the division or a side who had won six out of seven in all competitions.
They made a poor mistake to concede a penalty, were harshly denied a spot-kick of their own, looked ponderous on the ball with too many backwards passes and did not have a shot on target.
They have taken 16 points from ten games, leaving them seventh, which is a fairly solid start to the season given the chaotic transfer window and the players they have missing. But there a serious improvements to make to give themselves a chance of promotion.
They had been turned over at home by teams many expect to compete in the top half this season – Peterborough, Oxford and Portsmouth who all scored three goals each.
With Blackpool in a similar category, this game felt like a test of whether Barnsley could produce a good performance and result against one of the, in theory, better sides in the division.
Again they were beaten, adding to the question marks over their ability to hold their own at the top of the division, while the disgruntled home crowd endured a fourth defeat in five league matches at Oakwell.
No League One side has lost more home games or conceded more home goals than the Reds who do not play at Oakwell for more than three weeks.
O'KEEFFE ERROR FOR PENALTY
When Corey O’Keeffe lunged in on CJ Hamilton on the left of the box, hands immediately went on heads in the Ponty End, then, after the referee pointed to the spot, there were few complaints from the home players.
It was a clear penalty and a very poor decision by O’Keeffe.
In a game of few opportunities, it was massive to give Jordan Rhodes a penalty which he netted comfortably.
It was perfect for Blackpool’s defensive gameplan.
It came, as many of Blackpool’s early attacks did, from a goal kick - which saw Kylian Koussi win a header against Jordan Williams. Hamilton, one of the few players who entertained throughout, skipped past O’Keeffe - who he terrorised all game - then Williams before being tripped in the box.
Blackpool had barely attacked in the opening 21 minutes, with Barnsley on top although struggling to create chances.
The Reds looked so comfortable that, seconds earlier, Callum Styles and Owen Dodgson had both back healed the ball to the each other in an extraordinary one, two.
But the goal seemed to seal Barnsley’s fate as they have not equalised at Oakwell in the league since December 2021.
Rhodes now has eight goals in 13 games against Barnsley, whose academy he started in.
SPOT-KICK NOT GIVEN TO REDS
Barnsley could have had a penalty of their own midway through the second half.
After a fine run down the left wing by Devante Cole, he crossed low to Sam Cosgrove whose shot appeared to be goal-bound before it hit Olly Casey’s hand. The referee did not give a penalty, much to Barnsley’s fury.
The Reds also appealed for penalties other handballs as well as pushes on Callum Styles and Cosgrove, but none were given. They have not had a spot-kick at Oakwell for more than two years since they took the lead against Nottingham Forest under Markus Schopp.
Neill Collins, for the first time, seemed to lose his patience with the officials.
REDS PONDEROUS ON BALL AND TOOTHLESS IN ATTACK
This was a bad game of football. Neither side played well.
The match saw the side who had conceded the most home goals in the division host one of two sides in the EFL yet to net away from home this season.
It was Blackpool who finally netted on their travels, even though their boss Neil Critchley said it was the worst they played on the ball all season.
Barnsley had 68 per cent of the ball and more than double Blackpool’s passes and touches but, especially in the first half, were ponderously knocking it around in harmless areas with little threat.
That frustrated the fans, and the head coach who admitted they should have got the ball forward quicker.
Collins clearly expected Blackpool to attack and hoped to have space to play in on the counter, but instead the Tangerines sat very deep and relied on long balls to their attacking talents.
It took the head coach until half-time to address that, taking off teenage midfielder Theo Chapman who, with Adam Phillips ill, got the nod ahead of Josh Benson. He started his first league game well but faded badly.Collins brought on striker Sam Cosgrove, with John McAtee dropping back into attacking midfield, who allowed them to go more direct and added impetus as did replacement wing-backs Barry Cotter and Nicky Cadden.
But Blackpool used ‘professionalism’ and the dark arts to see out the win - six different players taking yellow cards mainly for time wasting or ending promising attacks with fouls.
Barnsley never really looked like scoring.
The Tangerines had one of the better defensive records with seven goals let in in eight games.
The best chance fell to McAtee on 76 minutes when, after a wonderful Herbie Kane pass to Cosgrove who crossed from the right, he beat a defender but shot over from ten yards.
Substitute Max Watters could have levelled in the 96th minute but totally mistimed a shot a few yards out after good work on the right by Cole who screamed in frustration when Watters - who looks devoid of confidence - could not convert.
It was Blackpool who had further shots on target, with Liam Roberts brilliantly keeping a powerful shot by ex-Red Kenny Dougall out of his top right corner then saving much more easily from substitute Shayne Lavery’s weak 20-yard effort.
DE GIVEGNEY MUCH IMPROVED
Mael De Givegney’s last league start was the 3-1 defeat to Oxford in August when he was hooked after 37 minutes, having conceded a penalty and been lucky not to be sent off.
He was chosen to replace the injured Kacper Lopata ahead of Jack Shepherd, whose league performances had been better than the Frenchman. But de Givegney was a big signing for the Reds in the summer and it was felt the time was right to give him another chance – this time in the centre of the back three rather than on the right.
He had a decent game, generally containing the dangerous Rhodes, recovering from a bloody nose after 30 minutes and completing 95 of his 100 passes including clever balls through the midfield.
It was encouraging and suggests he could perform well in League One consistently in the future.
Jamie McCart, who was given man of the match, and Williams - who made the most tackles but still gets dominated by big strikers - completed a generally solid back three.
Kane passed backwards or sideways a lot early on but played some good balls forward later and was constantly looking to get on the ball and make something happen for his team.
Styles offered little in attacking midfield, with Cole not continuing his goal run but creating chances for others.