A look at the key issues facing Barnsley approaching the festive period.


The disparity between Barnsley’s results in the first 20 games of the season against sides competing with them for promotion and those lower down the table is remarkable.

The Reds’ nine games so far against teams in the current top half have brought five defeats – all against sides in the top eight – draws with the clubs in ninth, tenth and 11th and a win over Northampton who are 12th. They have not kept a clean sheet in any.

But, in their 11 games against the current bottom half, they have won nine and drawn two, scoring 28 goals and conceding four – with seven clean sheets.

The Reds internally still believe they can finish in the top two but they are unlikely to finish in even the top six if they cannot beat any of the other teams competing for it.

Neill Collins would point out that many of those games against sides in the top eight were early in the season and the Reds have since improved.

They have the opportunity to prove that tomorrow against fourth-placed Stevenage.

After that, the majority of their games against sides who look likely to challenge for the Championship this season will be away from Oakwell.

They still have to visit Peterborough, next week, Stevenage, Bolton, Portsmouth – in a game that could be postponed from March 23 until very near the end of the season if either side has international call-ups – Oxford, Blackpool and Charlton.

Although they have a fine away record this season, those are a lot of difficult trips – many of them a long way away – when they need to be picking up regular points to stay in touch with the top six.


The fact that most of the games against the higher teams have been at Oakwell so far means the Reds have a poor home record at the moment.

They have collected just 14 of their 35 points on their own turf and have the 15th best home record in the division.

After the tricky match with Stevenage, they only have Derby, Lincoln and Bolton to face at home out of the current top ten.

Their first five home games of 2024 are against current bottom half sides Wigan, Bristol Rovers, Carlisle, Exeter and Leyton Orient.

Given their record in such fixtures this season, it is a good opportunity to start to put a solid home run together and win over the Oakwell faithful, many of whom have doubts about a promotion challenge.


The Reds now play four games in nine days from tomorrow.

Each one presents its own challenges as they take on top four sides in Stevenage tomorrow and Peterborough next Friday either side of a Boxing Day trip to Port Vale who will be hungry for revenge after the opening day 7-0 loss, while New Year’s Day visitors Wigan had been one of the form teams in the league before losing to Vale.

Tomorrow’s visitors are very direct, followed by more free-flowing opponents, so the Reds must be adaptable and versatile.

It will be a test of their squad with the gruelling schedule likely meaning they will have to rotate in various positions.

There are 12 points available in just over a week which means Barnsley could – depending on how they do – jump back into the top six and put pressure on the top two or slip well down into mid-table. They surely need at least two wins to stay in touch.

If they play like they did against Charlton, and are more clinical in both boxes, they could have a good Christmas.


A good transfer window could set the Reds up for a promotion tilt in the spring.

Keeping hold of their key players, especially top-scorer Devante Cole, will be vital, while they must make sure that any speculation does not distract the players in question as it clearly did with Liam Kitching and Callum Styles – still at the club with his future uncertain – towards the end of the summer window.

In terms of incomings, the Reds need at least one centre-back who can immediately inject quality and solidity into the defence.

Charlton’s equaliser on Saturday summed up many of the problems with Barnsley’s back three.

Jordan Williams gave the ball away then Mael de Gevigney and, especially, Jamie McCart were too easily beaten in the box.

De Gevigney, since a horror debut, has been a generally consistent performer but there are question marks over whether the Reds can upgrade on Williams – who has struggled in a back three after being a wing-back last season – and McCart.

Kacper Lopata could be brought back in, especially against a more physical team like Stevenage, with captain Williams moving back onto the wing.

The skipper has been beaten often in the air all season but is now starting to lose the ball regularly with his feet in key areas.


A significant section of the Barnsley fans, certainly those who are more vocal online, appear to have serious doubts about Neill Collins and his suitability for the head coach role.

There have been calls for him to go, on social media, and a few negative chants in the stands.

But that seems extremely premature given how early in his tenure it is, how much quality was lost from last season’s team – especially the back three – and the fact that the Reds are actually in a healthy position.

They have lost just one in ten league games, are only just outside the top six and have a very similar points total to last season as well as an excellent away record.

They have key players back fit such as Luca Connell and others starting to find form like Adam Phillips.

There are legitimate questions to ask about home results, losses against the higher-placed teams, the overall style of play, defensive solidity and the fact that, other than a few games, Barnsley just haven’t played that well this season.

But the second half at Reading and most of the home draw with Charlton were both encouraging.

Collins should be given more time – and backing from the club in the transfer window to strengthen the squad – to answer many of the above questions and prove himself to the supporters.

If they slide well into mid-table in the coming months and there is no noticeable improvement on the pitch, then the Reds board must question if they have brought in the right man – but we are nowhere near that stage yet.

The players and staff seem to be totally behind the head coach who will win the majority of fans over if he keeps moving the Reds up the league table going into the business end of the season.