New Year’s Resolution
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE! For my New Year’s Resolution, I am planning to not get relegated, and maybe win a match or something. We can dream can’t we?
Truth be told, having not won a game since November, I was a bit down about our chances. Something had to give, and I begged the board for money. Thankfully, seeing the predicament I was in, and having already gained more in the bank through a few months in the Premier League than Barnsley have ever had, they obliged, gifting an extra £20m and £90k a week to my cause. I instantly rearranged this to give me more in the way of wages, and began negotiations. I had three primary targets I wanted, and was confident in getting them. Unfortunately, as with all things, these took time, and no actions were taken before our first game of 2018, away to West Brom.
Our away form was dodgy. We’d not won a game away from home all season (and to be fair, we’d only won 3 games in total), and we weren’t about to start now. Thankfully however, our drawing streak would continue, and a healthy 1-1 draw against another relegation contender was ok…I’d have preferred a win, but by this point, I was completely sold on the idea that we needed pace out wide, and more solidity. It would be a rare bad game for Conor Hourihane, achieving a 5.8, having missed 2 penalties! We should have been home and dry, and dominated the game, alas, those penalties cost us, and Rondon and Winnall’s goals were to be the matches only efforts.
Home to United next in the 3rd round of the FA Cup, but not before our first transfers. Lee Grant, despite moving in summer, was not having a good time, and Adam Davies was not much better. We needed a solid goalkeeping option, and United’s reserve keeper Sam Johnstone seemed to be the perfect choice. Better stats than Grant and Davies, and with a point to prove, he arrived for £2.1m in time for the FA Cup. We’d also welcome the arrival of Everton’s Muhamed Bešić, for £4m. He would not be available for the cup game, but would give me a bit more defensive solidity in comparison to Sam Morsy, who whilst great, had been finding it tough as the sole defensive midfielder in the team.
Much like the 3 games before it, we see out another draw, earning us a replay at Old Trafford. However, unlike previous draws, something is different this time around. It is without a doubt that had Davies or Grant been in goal, United would have been the victors, and Johnstone’s debut is perfect. 0-0 maybe the result, but it felt like a win, and with the semi final against MK Dons approaching, I felt the winds of change…
You know I’m all about that pace…
How long have I been on about needing pace out wide? Bloody ages. Our third buy of the window attempted to solve this, as Barnsley were able to bring in transfer listed Matt Phillips on the right wing. His crossing and agility were vitally missing out wide, as would become apparent in the semifinal first leg. Now, I know MK Dons are a division below, but the very nature of our game play was impressive. Phillips would dominate the game, and the exploitation of the wings for pace would see us break the Dons time and time again. A Farrend Rawson header from a corner was followed up by a SARDAR AZMOUN GOAL (Yes, you heard me right, the young Iranian got on the scoresheet!!), before Phillips himself wrapped up the evening. A 3-0 win, our first in 2 months, and Barnsley were in a dominating position for the second leg in a few weeks.
(Azmoun’s first ever competitive goal for Barnsley!)
(Phillips scoring on his debut!)
We’d make our 4th and final signing of the window in the gap between the MK Dons match, and our next game, with the Rangers defender Danny Wilson making a move south of the border for less that a million. His average rating was impressive, and his stats notibly improved our defense. He would be a first team starter from now on, and would go into his first game with us as soon as the transfer was completed!
It should be noted that despite our awful run, our players never lost morale, and a victory over MK Dons was the boost needed to bring the confidence swimming back. Our next match would see us against struggling Leicester City, who had ditched Ranieri, and were managerless. This suited us just fine, as a fast, attacking display saw us grab our first league win since November, beating the former champions 3-1! McClean, Koziello, and Arzmoun (AGAIN!!!!) with the goals, Phillips assisting all 3! I was now so happy for Azmoun, having suddenly found a little bit of form. He was producing the goods not just in terms of goals, but his impact on the game as well, and I was thrilled to death.
Unfortunately, we’d lose our return match against United, 2-1, ditching us out of the cup. Whilst I was disappointed, I had to have perspective, and to be honest, a win there was never on the cards. We played very well, with Phillips grabbing ANOTHER goal, but United are United, and Rashford and Martial are nasty on their day. Ah well!
Alas, it didn’t matter, as a return to Oakwell saw us up against Rafa’s Newcastle, in a match I was desperate to get the win in. A win here would see us out of relegation and into 15th (with results going our way), and Rafa’s ongoing rivalry with me hadn’t stopped. Free flowing football, it was not, and the game seemed to be going to a 0-0 until late sub Marcus Maddison slotted home a fine finish on the 93rd minute,following an assist from Phillips, who was proving to be maybe the best signing of my life. Take that Rafa you pillock. We were out of the zone, not in 15th, but 17th…
An unexpected final…
Around this point it hit me…shit, I’m in a cup final (if I don’t slip up against MK Dons). How on earth had this happened?! We’d been awful all season, and whilst our new players had given us renewed hope, we’d stumbled into an opportunity which other teams would kill to have. We just needed a professional job against MK Dons…The match would be tense, and despite taking the lead, MK Dons would play above themselves, slaughting us with counter attacks. Form went out of the window, and this became a back and forth game. MK Dons needed to score, unfortunately, this meant they were weak at the back as we pushed forward, and our 2 goals were enough to stop them in their tracks.
Not quite what I had in mind, but a job done none the less….guys,…we are off to Wembley once again. Our League Cup final opposition,…West Ham.
Palace away was our next and final fixture of the month. Palace found themselves in a difficult position, also in the relegation zone, and even the removal of Alan Pardew, and his replacement with Sam Allardyce didn’t seem to be making much of a difference. They were suitable unprepared for the new and improved Barnsley. Within 8 minutes, McClean found himself through on goal, slotting home past the keeper. Azmoun (AGAIN!) was up next, before McClean grabbed his second and third. 4-0 at half time! What on earth! Palace fought back, grabbing 2, but it didn’t matter. Azmoun had his shooting boots on and finished the game off in the 88th. 5-2 Barnsley…away from home. McClean with a hattrick. Get out of here guys…just wow.
We found our self in 15th place, with 3 points separating us from the malaise underneath. We had a little bit of breathing room, and we were playing well. Things were getting better, we had renewed hope…and oh my god, we were in a cup final!