NOVEMBER was a challenging month for the Reds on and off the pitch.

While their league results of one win, one draw and one loss were hardly disastrous, they were easily beaten at Derby County and suffered another thrashing with a much-changed team at Bradford in the EFL Trophy.

The name Horsham will forever occupy an infamous place in Barnsley folklore for the twin humiliations of drawing at home to the seventh-tier part-timers then fielding an ineligible player in the replay win which led to a costly and embarrassing ejection from the FA Cup.

It was the latest in a series of off-the-pitch gaffes which the Reds have vowed to rectify.

There are concerns on the pitch too.

Barnsley have lost every game against the other teams in the current top eight, have the 15th best home record in the division, have conceded 17 goals in their last eight games and have not come from behind to win in two years.

There are also serious doubts among sections of the fanbase over the style of play, with the possession-focused, sideways-passing style causing frustration, while Neill Collins has become a lightning rod for their frustrations.

The second half at Blackpool in midweek was another very poor performance as they crashed out of yet another cup.

But they are still a point ahead of where they were at this point last season, just two points off the top six, have lost just one of their last eight league games while the return of Luca Connell from illness is a massive boost.

It would be hard to argue that Collins’ first five months in charge have been a roaring success, and he has a lot of work to do, but calls for his sacking seem premature considering the downgrade in positions like defence from last season and Barnsley’s reasonable league position at this early stage.

Performance levels are a concern, with the only really good displays coming in the home wins over Port Vale and Shrewsbury, while the 4-0 victory at Cambridge was a fantastic result if a flattering scoreline.

It could be time to put Jordan Williams back at right wing-back, for most games, and use three big, strong centre-backs, while one of Callum Styles and Adam Phillips needs to nail down that position in midfield and get back to near their best.

December is a crucial month.

The Reds could slip further into mid-table obscurity amid fury from a fanbase who mainly expected to follow up last year’s play-off final with another promotion push, or move back into the top six and make the autumn panic seem silly.

Wins in the next two matches would leave Barnsley with more points after 20 games than last season which was the highest total at that stage since 1980/81.

It is a difficult month with games against teams who look set to challenge for promotion such as Charlton, Stevenage and Peterborough as well as trips to relegation-battlers Reading and a revenge-hungry Port Vale.

The January transfer window will be important as usual, with the future of players such as Devante Cole and Callum Styles uncertain, as well as loanee Liam Roberts, while the Reds will surely need to bring in at least one new centre-back.

But first they need to enter 2024 still in touch with the top six after a strong December.


The Royals have been one of English football’s crisis clubs this year, with a series of points deductions, a relegation, a winding-up order and some poor results putting them bottom of the third tier last month.

Non-playing staff have not been paid.

They are still five points from safety but won their last two league matches while Barnsley have not scored in five attempts at the Berkshire club with four successive defeats.

Reading’s side is a strange mixture of veterans such as ex-Red Andy Yiadom, pictured, sensible signings such as Cambridge pair Harvey Knibbs and Sam Smith and also a string of youngsters with two thirds of their 11 regularly under 23.

Defeat to a club in such difficulties would heap pressure on Neill Collins ahead of tough home games against Charlton and Stevenage.

Barnsley’s away form is beginning to falter after a fine start on the road but a win in front of a decent-sized away end would be a massive boost.


Two of the starters from Barnsley’s play-off final at Wembley in May are now with the Addicks.

Striker Slobodan Tedic, pictured, has one goal in 14 games and has often been an unused substitute in the last month in league games.

Goalkeeper Harry Isted – who turned down a permanent deal with the Reds to move to the London club last summer – has been out since September with a knee injury.

They also have Alfie May, who is the top-scorer in the division with 14 goals after joining from Cheltenham Town in the summer.

Charlton are tenth, five points and three places behind Barnsley.

They sacked Dean Holden after four straight defeats in August then appointed Michael Appleton who has lost just two of 12 league games.

They have a poor away record this season with just one league win on the road.

The home games against Charlton and Stevenage could be crucial as the Reds try to remove doubts among some home fans pre-Christmas.


Barnsley’s poor results against the other sides in the top eight has been well-documented.

They have played five and lost five, scoring four and conceding 13.

The highest team they have beaten so far are 12th-placed Shrewsbury Town.

Stevenage’s inclusion in the top six will be a surprise to many but the Hertfordshire club – who play a very direct style under veteran boss Steve Evans – are fourth, after promotion from League Two last season.

Stevenage – who have never played Barnsley before – had won six successive games before losing a 2-0 lead at home to Peterborough in a 2-2 draw in their last league match. They are unbeaten in ten.

They have the second-best away record in the division, having recently overtaken Barnsley.

Evans has been linked with a return to former club Rotherham United.

For the second week in a row, the Reds are likely to face one of the top-scorers in the division in Jamie Reid who has 12 goals and, like Charlton’s May, has recently overtaken Barnsley’s Devante Cole at the top of the League One charts.

The Reds’ following home game is against Wigan on New Year’s Day then they host Bristol Rovers and Exeter City later in January.


Barnsley have not lost on Boxing Day since a defeat at Preston in 2014.

The Valiants have had a rollercoaster season, starting with the remarkable 7-0 loss at Oakwell on the opening day.

They then won eight and drew one of their next nine games in all competitions, overtaking the Reds in the table.

But they are now winless in 11 league games, drawing three and losing eight, scoring four goals in the last ten and slumping down to 19th, three points above the relegation zone.

They have scored just 14 goals in 18 games and have collected only nine home points from eight games.

Their director of football is former Barnsley manager David Flitcroft who was sacked by the Reds a decade ago last week.


Barnsley will finish a generally successful but also frustrating 2023 with one of their toughest fixtures so far this season in theory.

The Posh are currently fifth, four points ahead of Barnsley.

Darren Ferguson’s side have been more successful than the Reds using a possession-based style, having lost just one of their last 12 league games and are the joint top-scorers. Barnsley led Peterborough until the 74th minute at Oakwell in August but conceded three times to begin their travails at home which have been one of the major issues this season.

Their game at Oxford United on January 6 will now be moved due to the Us’ progress in the FA Cup. So their only scheduled away league game in January is a trip to Stevenage on the 20th.