Analysis of Barnsley's 2-0 home loss to Cambridge United on Good Friday. Mael de Gevigney's early own goal was followed by a second half header from Gassan Ahadme.


ONLY A small fraction of the home crowd stayed after the final whistle ended this dismal defeat but they were still loud when they booed the players and staff who went to applaud them as usual at full-time.

The Reds’ post-match lap was much shorter than usual as they looked reluctant to get too close to the supporters, some of whom snapped after the latest poor Oakwell performance not befitting a promotion-chasing side.

The only person who seemed enthusiastic in his clapping was former Reds player turned Cambridge coach Kevin Betsy who applauded all four sides of the ground at the final whistle.

There had also been boos at half-time and for some of the changes made by Neill Collins.

While the memorable moments are the farcical own goal which set the tone of the game and John McAtee’s near open goal miss, the majority of the match saw Barnsley play lacklustre and insipid football. The disjointed display was summed up when Nicky Cadden, in a good position on the left wing, backheeled the ball to where he thought Josh Earl would be but Earl had not made the run so the ball rolled out of play.

Jordan Williams, Devante Cole and Herbie Kane – back from suspension – returned to the 11 in place of Corey O’Keeffe, Sam Cosgrove and Jon Russell. But they did not look the refreshed, re-energised team

Collins saw in training during the 13-day break.

Barnsley were short of ideas on how to break down one of the worst teams in the league in current form.

Cambridge arrived a place and three points above the drop zone having taken one point from their last seven games and scoring once in their last six. They had the second worst away record in the division with 13 points from 19 games and had lost their last four away games without netting.

They had suffered a 6-0 loss at Lincoln and 4-0 beating at Reading in their last two games. But Garry Monk – the former Barnsley defender – then had two weeks to work with the players after being appointed in early March.

Barnsley had won the last five meetings, not conceding in the last four, but Cambridge got their second ever win at Oakwell.

They could have won by more, having a goal controversially ruled out and missing several other chances.


It was difficult to take the idea of automatic promotion seriously after this game.

Peterborough lost at home to bottom club Carlisle and Bolton drew at Stevenage, but Derby won to maintain a good grip on second.

If Barnsley win at Burton on Monday then Derby are beaten in the top-of the table clash at Portsmouth on Tuesday, then the situation could be the same as before the Easter games - with the Reds seven points off second with two games in hand.

But they are not playing in a way that suggests they can make a charge for the top two.

In fact, some of their recent performances suggest they could even be in danger of slipping out of the top six if they are not careful.

The play-offs, as for much of the season, remain the most likely final result which is not a bad outcome at all for the club but they will want to go into them with more momentum and form than they currently have.


The Reds have the 11th most points in the division at home, with 32, and the 22nd best defensive record on their own turf, conceding 30 goals.

Those are simply not the numbers of a top two contender, with their magnificent away form the only reason they have been in contention for automatic promotion.

It is more like the kind of home form from 20 years ago when Cambridge coaches Monk and Betsy played for Barnsley who had just avoided financial ruin and were in the lower reaches of the third tier.

They are winless in four home games at League One level for the first time since the infamous losing run under Lee Johnson in 2015.

Having conceded a last-gasp leveller to Bolton, been thrashed 5-1 by Lincoln then held 0-0 by Cheltenham, this was another new way to experience frustration at Oakwell for the Reds and their fans.

When Cambridge visited last season, it was the day the home fans fully got behind Michael Duff’s side for the first time. This time it felt like the home momentum built up by the win over Derby a month earlier had disappeared.

Earlier in the season, Barnsley could use the excuse that they played a lot of the top teams at home when they were not at their best following a chaotic summer.

But they have now lost there to bottom half sides Exeter and Cambridge in 2024 as well as the Lincoln humiliation.

They have just two home league games left this season, against Reading and Northampton.


After a sluggish first few minutes, Barnsley seemed to be growing into the game and had just missed a good chance through Cadden when suddenly the ball was in the back of the Reds net.

Mael de Gevigney‘s backpass rolled past goalkeeper Liam Roberts and into the bottom right corner.

It was a misplaced and overhit ball by the Frenchman but also clumsy goalkeeping by Roberts who might have stopped it had he stayed on his feet instead of tumbling to the ground. Roberts is a superb shot-stopper but nowhere near as good at the other aspects of his game.

Those two have had generally good seasons but combined for an inexplicable mix-up from which the hosts could not recover.

The Reds have gone behind in the opening 20 minutes of seven of the last ten games.

They have conceded 13 goals in the first 15 minutes of matches this season which is the most in the division. At home, they have let in nine goals in the opening 15 minutes and scored just one.

They were excellent at coming from behind to win earlier in the season but have failed to do so recently with Collins saying ‘it becomes tiring constantly having to chase the game.’

The second goal was also poor.

Cambridge will be pleased with Danny Andrew’s left-wing free-kick and the fine looping header by Gassan Ahadme which went in off the left post.

But Ahadme got away from his marker Adam Phillips far too easily.

Phillips is decent in the air but ultimately an attacking midfielder and it was surprising that he should be given the vital task of marking Cambridge’s tall top-scorer. It suggests a lack of organisation, leadership and aerial dominance in Barnsley’s team.

There are real questions, especially with Donovan Pines out for the season, over whether the Reds are good enough defensively to reach the Championship.


Barnsley have been the most clinical side in the division and Cambridge the least, based on ‘expected goals’ statistics.

But the Reds were wasteful in this match, with just three of their 18 shots on target while, after creating some good chances before the break, they barely tested Cambridge’s goalkeeper in the second half.

After scoring in 24 consecutive games, they have not netted in the last two.

They had 72 per cent possession but struggled to break down a defence which had conceded ten in their last two games, badly lacking cutting edge and creativity.

Cambridge played five at the back and two defensive midfielders which became three after taking the lead.

Collins had a point when he said Barnsley had delivered similar performances but been more ruthless and got a narrow win many times this season.

But that just plays into the idea that their results have been far better than performances and it is now evening out.

The big chance fell to McAtee who looked set to level on 33 minutes but somehow hit the post from just a few yards out after meeting Earl’s good low cross. McAtee was taken off midway through the second half for Cosgrove to loud boos by the home fans. Collins left on Cole whose goalless run stretched to ten games while he lacked some conviction and confidence with the few half-chances which fell his way.

As well as Cosgrove, Max Watters came off the bench to make his 50th appearance and first for more than two months but made little impact and it has been more than a year now since his last home league goal - against Sheffield Wednesday.

It was not just the strikers who struggled. Phillips had one of his worst games in a fine second half of the season as he barely threatened his former club.

Luca Connell played in a more attacking role with Kane anchoring the midfield. Connell got in some good positions but lacked end product while Kane’s passing was often wayward.

Collins kept three centre-backs on throughout but changed his wing-backs regularly and switched to a front three.

O’Keeffe was unlucky not to get an assist off the bench as his crosses supplied some of the quality often lacking.