Analysis of Barnsley's 1-0 win at fellow top six club Oxford United on Tuesdy evening. A first half own goal was the difference.


NEILL Collins’ Barnsley win games of football.

No matter what the weather, how many players they have out, how they play, they just seem to find a way to collect three points regularly - game after game after game at the moment.

It is testament to the mentality and togetherness of a group of players and staff who appear to be launching a serious assault on the League One summit.

If they do get promoted, they will look back at this game as one of the really significant results.

They were away at a fellow top six side - who started the match only below them on goal difference - and lost their entire first choice midfield before and during the game.

But, after edging the first half and taking the lead, they defended stoutly against the wind in terrible weather - displaying excellent character, guts, professionalism and game management.

Following the frustration of Saturday’s wasted trip to Stevenage, the Reds and their 307 fans enjoyed what felt like a massive and hard-earned victory with heart-felt post-match celebrations.


The result left Barnsley six points clear in the top six and three off the top two, in the extremely congested section at the top of the League One table.

They are in contention for all the top positions including the title as they are four points off leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand.

Two points per game from now on takes them to 90 points and that kind of tally, if not more, could be required for automatic promotion.

They are certainly on excellent form, unbeaten in 11 league games while winning the last three.

It was an eighth away victory of the season from 13 games, giving them an impressive tally of 28 points on the road.

The club records of 41 away points and 12 away wins in a season are certainly within reach with ten fixtures remaining. Several of those trips are to promotion rivals - such as Bolton Wanderers in the crucial next away fixture on February 3 - but the Reds are significantly improving in those sort of games. After losing their first five meetings with the other members of the top eight, they have taken seven points from three games against Stevenage, Peterborough and now Oxford.


When Barnsley’s team was announced, there was no Luca Connell - due to a stomach bug - or Callum Styles who is close to a loan move away from the club.

Then Adam Phillips - who created the goal - came off at half-time with an ankle problem and was soon followed by former Oxford man Herbie Kane who aggravated a hamstring issue he has been nursing.

That meant that, in the space of a few hours, they had lost four extremely talented midfield options - with Josh Benson a long-term absentee.

Jon Russell was the last midfielder standing and put in his best performance for months, epitomising the team’s resilience and workrate. It was a huge improvement on his display a week earlier against Carlisle when he gave the ball away regularly - this time recording the best pass completion rate of 87 per cent. He also made a fine run to help win the corner which led to the winner.

Russell was joined for the final quarter of the game in an unconventional midfield three by striker John McAtee, who dropped back, and wing-back Corey O’Keeffe who was asked to ‘plug a gap’ due to his energy and fitness. They both put in important shifts.

O’Keeffe had impressed on the right in the first half while Nicky Cadden - in for Styles at left wing-back - had an excellent match.

It must be pointed out that Oxford also had two players hobble off in the first half, but the Reds’ issues were very concentrated in central midfield.

Barnsley are obviously extremely short in midfield - teenagers Aaron Atkinson and Jonathan Bland were on the bench for the first time for a league game - but are hoping Kane, Phillips and Connell could return for Saturday’s game at home to Exeter.

They will also look to recruit in the transfer window, to replace Styles who apparently wants to move to secure a place in the Hungary team for the Euros. He has shown glimpses of his talent this season but is way off the levels he displayed in 2020/21 and a move might be best for all parties - especially if the Reds get a significant fee they can reinvest immediately.


This was Barnsley’s first clean sheet in 11 games since the 1-0 home win over Wycombe Wanderers in November while it was their first away shut-out in the league since the victory at Exeter on October 7.

The Reds certainly rode their luck at times, with poor backwards headers by Jordan Williams then Jack Shepherd leading to one-on-one chances which were missed.

But, after the second of those just after half-time, Oxford could not get in behind Barnsley and were restricted to a series of long-range efforts - the best of which from Cameron Brannagan crashed into the crossbar in the 85th minute.

Although helped by Oxford’s striker shortage, all of the back three deserve credit. Shepherd is raw and has made glaring errors in the last two games but the former kitchen-fitter has won on all five of his league starts in professional football with two goals conceded.

Mael de Gevigney - the best performer of the three - gained ‘revenge’ on Oxford after a horrible August debut which saw him concede a penalty and be taken off on 37 minutes.

Captain Williams’ passionate celebrations with the away fans at full-time summed up the evening. He made the most touches, tackles and interceptions of any Barnsley player.

Behind the back three, Roberts had another fine game - making a crucial one-on-one save but also demonstrating assured handling from long-range shots and crosses on a slippery night.


It was always likely to take an expert finish to break the deadlock in such a tight game.

But it was not expected to come from Oxford defender Sam Long who headed into the bottom right corner of his own net after 29 minutes.

It was a bad night for Long, who had just returned to fitness but came off with a head injury minutes after the goal - meaning Oxford had an extra substitute slot later.

The goal came from a fine right-wing cross by Phillips - who also set up two goals with crosses against Oxford last April - and due to pressure on Long by Devante Cole who still tried to claim his 17th goal of the season.

It was crucial that the Reds took advantage of having the strong wind at their backs in the first half and, although both sides had several chances before the break, it was them who made the breakthrough.

The only shot on target all game from a Barnsley player came late on by substitute Barry Cotter whose effort from the right of the box was easily saved.