Here we, here we go…
A great preseason under our belts meant a great deal of confidence going into the opening fixture of the season against Ipswich. Yeah we’d played some minnows (no offense Dumbarton and Scunthorpe) but the dominant display against Club Brugge was my crowing moment so far. They’re by no means a rubbish team and represented the potential quality we could face this season.
But, injuries to new boys Thomas Bradshaw and Marcus Maddison marred my joy, and it would take us a good few games to really work out any rhythm. The footballing calendar kicked off on the 6th of August, with the month seeing us play 7 competitive fixtures in both the Championship and the EFL Trophy (League Cup). The opening day trip to Portman Road would be a test and a half, with Ipswich predicted to finish 9 places above us in the league.
With the aforementioned players out with injury, our starting XI resembled the following.
Typical FM would not be so kind as to give me an easy start however, and within 9 minutes Ipswich were a goal ahead through Freddie Sears. The frustrating thing would go on to be that despite the score line, we were equaling our opponents in terms of ability. Debutante Jay Spearing was operating well in the holding role, and would come out of the game with a solid 7.0 rating, but our ability to put away chances would prove costly, as on the 77th minute, our defense proved shaky, and Ipswich doubled their lead. We’d grab a consolation goal, no more than we deserved, through Sam Winnall, but it would be an opening day defeat for the Tykes.
A Solace of Joy
Respite from the league would come soon after, with Barnsley travelling to Oldham in the League Cup. A rotated team would be named, as I will admit, league fixtures were seen as a priority. This would prove somewhat costly, as Oldham matched us, taking us to extra time, and even taking the lead before Conor Hourihane saved us, leading us to penalties. Victory would ensue, setting up a date at Oakwell with Premier League side West Brom.
The games would now come thick and fast, with home games against Derby and QPR, and an away fixture against Huddersfield all happening within 7 days. Derby would be tough for our team, with them predicted to challenge in the playoffs. You’d forgive my excite then when, on the 10th minute, Adam Hammill latched onto a ball in the box, and slotted it in to take us 1-0! A frantic game followed, but, like Ipswich before us, our lack of quality, and defensive naivety would prove our downfall. It was not long before Derby were back in the game through Johnny Russell, and 2-1 in the 41st.
Despite our best chances, Derby made it 3-1 in the second half, and we were well and truly out. Annoying considering once again, we matched them pound for pound, chance for chance.
It was bloody disappointing, and the arrival of QPR seemed to offer no respite to an increasingly annoyed playing staff. What would follow would in truth be a very poor game. Having decided that points were needed, my conservative nature took hold, and a defensive set up played for a draw. A red card for Hourihane meant some tight defending towards the end, but QPR were wasteful, and after 90 minutes, a 0-0 and our first points of the season were recorded. This proved successful, and with a trip away to Huddersfield around the corner, and without our captain, No real changes were made to the team. It wasn’t pleasant football, but it was working, with a repeat result. 2 points now…we weren’t on the bottom of the table.
Whilst defensive was great, we lost any cutting edge we had. Defeats aside, I was more pleased with our performances in the Derby and Ipswich games than I was against QPR and Huddersfield. My midfield set up of a Defensive Ball Winner, A Box to Box midfielder, and a supporting CM weren’t producing much movement up field either, and with a “nothing to lose” game against West Brom, I thought I would experiment. Hourihane was back in the team, and switched to a DLP, whilst Sam Morsy (who was proving crucial at this point) would operate as a Roaming Play Maker. This would also work well with Everton’s Tom Davies on loan, who would be my main rotation in that role.
We dominated the Tony Pulis side, with the lion’s share of possession and chances. It was incredible. The switch in midfield had meant that we were looking up the pitch, attempting to create. We looked forward, not back, we were progressive in every sense of the word. Sam Winnall would grab us a brilliant lead on the 21st minute, only to have it equalised in the 51st through a Premier League quality goal from Solomon Rondon. But West Brom wouldn’t break us down, and despite all the positives, it’s hard to break down a Tony Pulis side. Another round of penalties followed, as tense as always. Barnsley were clinical…West Brom were not, as their 5th penalty, taken by defender Armend Dallku was saved by our keeper Adam Davies!
Our final game of the month would be a South Yorkshire derby, as neighbouring Rotherham United visited Oakwell in an early relegation battle. Rotherham, like us, were desperate for a win, something I was not wanting to give them. We were the early kick off, televised for the whole world to see (not sure how many would tune in for this like…). Defender Angus MacDonald would come into the side, as I was still unsure of our best back 4 (we still looked capable of some awful mistakes at the back), but the team would remain largely the same as the one which had proven to be so great against West Brom.
Rotherham, like me against Huddersfield and QPR, were out for the draw, and created very little in the way of chances. It was hard to break down, and required a switch from standard to attacking, and to fluid movement to finally start creating chances. A game such as this would always be decided by the slimmest of margins, and thankfully, it would be in my favour. A lovely flowing pass and move saw Winnall slip the ball through to Hammill, who slotted underneath the Rotherham keeper in the 38th. It would be all we needed to in the end, as we ran out 1-0 winners in the Derby, and most importantly, gained our first 3 points of the season, taking us from 21st to 15th place.
Our first win of the season, something I am glad we got out of the way sooner rather than later if we are to have any chance of survival this season. With 6 games approaching in September, it was set to be a busy month, and with opposition like Wolves, Preston, Reading and Villa, it would be another testing month for the Tykes…
What do you make of our chances? Do we have a good enough squad, and can we now go on a run after the Rotherham game?
As always, thanks for taking the time to read. You can contact me on twitter @VRFussball