|Ipswich Town v Blackburn Rovers|
Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
It’s a Real Backs-to-the-Wall Job This Season - Notes for Barnsley
Friday, 11th Aug 2017 11:00
HarryfromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Oakwell by delving into their forums.
“It’s not raining, but it’s looking distinctly cloudy”, “There’s a hell of a lot of work to do”, “We always seem to lose the opening match, but this is still alarmingly bad”, “You can’t sell all your players and expect to produce a winning team”, “The reality is quite simple. Spend now or else we go down.”
“Things can improve but the omens do not look great.” The season may be less than a week old but Tykes are worried. Saturday’s poor defeat at the hands of Bristol City was followed by Tuesday’s neurotic Carabao Cup win over Morecambe. The reality of a difficult campaign has already hit home.
The legacy of losing of so many talented players in the last two windows has been an unbalanced and depleted squad lacking in quality. “The Morecambe game really illustrated how far away we are from having a team. At 2-0 and 3-1 up against League Two opposition we never looked safe.”
“I’m still trying to work out if the powers that be haven’t a clue what they are doing, or if they know exactly what they are doing”, “The plan was surely to sell one or two players each summer, not an entire team”, “Looking at the league, I am struggling to identify three teams we can finish above.”
With games coming thick and fast, Tykes fear there won’t be time to settle. “The quicker we get a settled side, the better, but we have to give them time”, “It will be a tough few months. Even if the new lads turn out to be good enough, they will take time to adapt to the league and to each other.”
Paul Heckingbottom (Hecky)
“I don’t think anyone on here thinks this season is going to be easy. Staying up is the object this year. If we survive this year, then next season we might just have a shot, if Hecky is still here”, “He is doing his best with a bunch of raw kids and I fear we might take some beatings in the first two months.”
“The best manager we have had in decades”, “Hecky’s a Barnsley fan and he’s one of us.” Tykes are firmly behind the 40-year-old Barnsley-born former player who guided the club to ninth place in the Championship last season. “He has a hell of a lot of work to get these rookies up and running.”
“It seems that the board think he’s a miracle worker and not a football manager. He has been landed in the totally unworkable situation of cobbling together a cut-price team pretty much in weeks. I feel sorry for the guy. He is a good managerial talent whose prospects may well suffer with the team’s.”
“There doesn’t seem to be much talent there for him to work with”, “We can’t consider sacking him if we’re bottom and struggling at Christmas. The model we use is very risky. No manager can be held to account if he can’t keep rebuilding off scraps when his side is sold from under him in six months.”
Piecing a Team Together
“Hecky’s style is based on fast counter-attacking”, “At least we look like Barnsley going forward and play good football which is easy on the eye”, “The fact that we look half-decent in possession is the biggest boost”, “Don’t write these lads off after only one game. They still hardly know each other.”
The starting XI (above) at Ashton Gate was missing three likely first-team regulars in centre-back Liam Lindsay, winger Lloyd Isgrove and midfielder Stevie Mallen. Right-back Andy Yiadom switched flanks in what may have been his league final game before a move to Huddersfield which is likely to be confirmed before Saturday’s match.
The team was set out in their preferred 4-4-2 shape but many feel they lack the quality and variety of players to suit this. “We will need to score three goals to earn a point unless different players are recruited to play 4-4-2, or else Hecky much change the system to suit what he has at his disposal.”
Conor Hourihane (C) celebrates with Andy Yiadom (L) and Ryan Kent
While the departure of centre-half Marc Roberts to Birmingham has caused a short-term headache, most Tykes feel that the loss of midfielder Conor Hourihane, who was with the Blues for a spell as a youngster, to Aston Villa in January has caused irreparable damage. “He was an absolute mastermind, the type of player you get once in 20 years.”
“The central midfielders have to work hard on our playing approach when we don’t have the ball as they are more suited to playing the ball and attacking.” Fans would welcome a solid box-to-box or holding midfielder to protect the defence as well as more width to suit their 4-4-2 formation.
“We need five first-team players in before the end of August, not potential but actual”, “We have been getting a new striker for the last two months. Someone is taking the proverbial.” Two strikers, “Mr Pace and Mr Aerial Threat” are a high priority but the state of the defence is seen as critical.
“Honestly, our defence is woeful”, “An experienced older head, especially at centre-back, would be a huge boost”, “The defence look what they are, an untried, untested unit. For a group of physically big blokes we are surprisingly vulnerable in the air”, “The defending is worrying and needs stability.”
“We looked like a side who never defended a corner against Morecambe and the back four seemed to have never met”, “They made more and more mistakes, and every Morecambe goal came from one of them”, “That is what happens when you rip a team apart and ask the coach to start again.”
Youth and Inexperience
“We need to add experience to the squad to balance it out”, “I would get two or three older players in right now for their experience. It might add some balance”, “Hecky said after the Bristol City game that a couple of older heads would be needed”, “We need to get the basics right or we have blown it.”
“We are bedding in talented League One youngsters in one of the world’s most unforgiving leagues.” The average age of Saturday’s starting line-up was 22 years and seven months. “Our young players are inexperienced at Championship level. They will struggle to get to grips with the division at first.”
Bristol City 3 – 1 Barnsley
“I’m sorry but that was the worst Barnsley team since our last relegation. We will improve but today was awful. Don’t think for a moment that Bristol City were good. We were shocking”, “One of the worst halves I have seen from any Barnsley team”, “I had expected us to get battered but not this quickly.”
The Robins wrapped up their opening win on the season in the first half hour of this game. Famara Diedhiou’s debut goal on 25 minutes was bracketed by Bobby Reid’s brace on 16 and 30 in a dominant first-half display. Substitute Ryan Hedges netted a late second half stoppage time reply for the Tykes.
“I’m not scared to say when a performance is as bad as I have seen in many a year”, “The midfielders were like tourists looking for directions. We were dawdled on the ball too often”, “The defending was criminal. All of them had some part in Bristol’ Citys goals”, “Bristol City basically declared at half-time.”
Barnsley 4 – 3 Morecambe (Carabao Cup)
“Phew”, “I’m chuffed we won, but not chuffed we conceded three to a League Two side”, I don’t think you can extrapolate too much from opposition two leagues below you, especially when they score three times against you”, “The 4-3 scoreline didn’t tell the full story, 7-5 would have.”
Tom Bradshaw gave the Tykes an early lead after two minutes and striker partner Ike Ugbo added a second 20 minutes later. Sam Lavelle for Morecambe and Bradshaw exchanged goals either side of the break to make it 3-1 to Barnsley before Michael Rose added Morecambe’s second from the spot.
Vadaine Oliver looked to have taken the tie to extra time on 82 minutes for the Shrimps but Ryan Hedges curled home a second stoppage time goal in as many games to send Barnsley through. “The relief at not having to watch extra time was tangible when Hedges scored the winner at the end.”
Heckingbottom made minimal alterations for Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win, preferring to give his side valuable playing time together. Newly arrived full-back Matty Pearson is seen as a successor to the departing Andy Yiadom while experienced winger Adam Hammill’s appearance was welcomed.
“The defence looked balanced at the start but made more and more mistakes and lost concentration as the game went on. Every Morecambe goal came from one of these mistakes whereas we created most of our goals”, “We were always going to oblige them with chances to get back into the game.”
“We have had a lot of dour games in this competition. It was honestly good to see two teams just going for it”, “Morecambe never stopped attacking, were very quick on the break and had such a great team spirit”, “It was wet and horrid, and they were as likely to win it at the end as we were.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Adam Davies was unlucky against Bristol City and didn’t do much wrong.” The 25-year-old former Owl “saved us from a heavier defeat. It would have been five or six but for him”, “He had a fantastic campaign last year. I have no problems with him being our number one for the foreseeable future.”
“For all the praise Davies is receiving, he still has the glaring fault that he cannot hold on to shots on the floor. His tendency to push them straight back out or slightly to one side must be rectified if he is to progress”, “He can be slow distributing the ball especially when we are on the counter-attack.”
“I was not impressed with Jason McCarthy at Bristol but at least he seemed to be trying to rectify the defensive situation.” The 21-year-old right-back arrived from Southampton in June having been on loan at Walsall last year. “The Saddlers used him in a very attacking role. He is a composed player.”
“Ethan Pinnock looked raw against Morecambe but he showed some good touches given it was his first game out of the National League.” The 24-year-old arrived from Forest Green in June. He has plenty of promise but is woeful in the air at the minute, especially when defending freekicks and corners.”
“Pinnock is lightning quick, starts his tackles in a different postcode and shields the ball nicely”, “He can be like an over-eager puppy, everywhere and nowhere”, “He looks a real unit but isn’t ready to be thrown in”, “His inability to win headers is an area he has to improve on in double-quick time.”
“I have seen Matty Pearson play before for Accrington and he’s a wholehearted player. He may be the answer at full-back in League Two but it’s asking for trouble if you make that his primary position at this level”, “He looks like a centre-half and doesn’t have the pace or athleticism to play out wide.”
“Pearson is very physical and likes a challenge.” The 24-year-old arrived from Stanley a week ago and debuted against Morecambe. “He did OK but tailed off at the end” “He’s a solid Tony Adams type of defender and he is also a danger from attacking set pieces”, “He’s a centre-half all day long.”
“Adam Jackson looks slow and just out of his depth.” Tykes have heavily criticised the 23-year-old former Middlesbrough man. “I assumed Bristol City’s striker came with his own 10-metre exclusion zone as Jackson got nowhere near him”, “He should be a very distant fourth-choice central defender.”
“Jackson is a no-nonsense defender who has yet to come good”, “I’m worried about him at centre-half. Unless he has come on in leaps and bounds, he doesn’t have the tools required to be a success at this level”, “He is too inconsistent, making great tackles one minute, then giving the ball away.”
“I’m sorry, but it has become blatantly obvious that Angus relied on Marc Roberts defensively and selling the latter to Birmingham this summer has done far more damage to the defence as a whole”, “MacDonald was beaten in the air far too easily for one of Bristol City’s goals. He is a very weak link.”
Alfie Mawson (C) Adam Davies and Marc Roberts
“Angus reacts too late at set pieces, and gave away the penalty against Morecambe.” The 24-year-old ex-Torquay centre-back “was very weak against Morecambe. It was like holding off a toddler”, “The Bristol game was the third in a row where he failed to defend a straight ball over the top.”
“Joe Williams is nice and tidy but I would like to see him play a few more forward passes.” The 20-year-old Everton loan signing “made a load of mistakes at Bristol but you could see that at least he was trying to orchestrate things”, “I like the look of him, he’s not scared to make a challenge.”
“Williams looks a decent prospect even if he plays more deeply, but that may be down to tactics”, “He will be the enforcer”, “He was the one player to come out of the Rotherham [pre-season 4-0] defeat with credit. He tackled, tracked back, went forward with purpose and showed some heart.”
“I really want Alex Mowatt to do well, but get the feeling he will only drop down the leagues rather than climb up them.” The 22-year-old January arrival from Leeds “is a left-footed creative midfielder who hasn’t lived anywhere bear up to Hourihane’s standard”, “He has flattered to deceive here.”
“I can’t understand it with Mowatt. Physical fitness isn’t an issue and he has incredible technique. It’s just that he hasn’t clicked on the field with us”, “He recycles the ball well and gets around the pitch but could be more effective in an advanced role”, “He has done next to nothing since arriving.”
“I have yet to be convinced by Moncur but he’s improving.” The 23-year-old former Colchester man “links up play well and has loads of energy. He impressed as an attacking threat against Morecambe with two assists”, “The way he gets forward with the ball has you on the edge of you seat at times.”
“Moncur pings the ball around well and makes decent runs but needs a partner in midfield who will get a foot in and tackle”, “He tried to keep things moving at Bristol but was simply too slow”, “When he struggles, he can end up killing the tempo of our play and he isn’t all that sure what a tackle is.”
“Brad Potts played against Bristol as if he had never met his team-mates before. Oh, wait…” The 23-year-old made his debut at Ashton Gate two days after signing for the Tykes from Blackpool. “I was alarmed at the lack of effort he made to run for balls that were within his reach”, “He initially looks a poor option.”
“Potts is clearly not match fit”, “The bloke was blowing and running in treacle. He’s never a right-sided midfielder. He was like a slower Paul Digby”, “He is fast but he did tire later on”, “He made no effort to track his runners or support his full-back and made no effort get back to put a tackle in.”
“I wouldn’t mind seeing Ryan Hedges start against Ipswich on Saturday.” The 22-year-old moved to Oakwell from Swansea in January and spent time on loan at Yeovil last season. “He’s a funny kind of player as he is really skilful for a tall guy”, “A direct player who drifts with the ball with such grace.”
“I would be tempted to stick Hedges up front alongside Bradshaw. His goals have given Hecky food for thought”, “He broke his cheekbone, was pulled out of pre-season friendlies and was the forgotten man this summer. Who would have thought that he would have scored two in two games now?”
“Adam is a genuine quality player whose defensive work goes unnoticed a lot of the time. He puts in a real shift up and down the pitch”, “He’s still a regular first-teamer for me.” The 29-year-old former Terrier, who also played for Mick McCarthy at Wolves, “will play a part this season, but maybe he won’t be quick enough to fit into the system”
“Hammill was the only outfield player who showed he cared at Bristol. He had some nice touches and showed some spirit and urgency”, “He still needs to move the ball quicker or find the easy pass. He doesn’t have to tie the full-back in knots every time when sometimes a simple ball will work.”
“Stefan Payne has a lot of raw talent.” The 25-year-old former Dover Athletic player has been used as a bench option in the first two games of the season. “He is a strong lad who can score goals and be a nuisance”, “An inexpensive gamble who could be a decent squad player if he polishes up.”
“I like Payne’s physicality but his touch isn’t up to Championship standard”, “There are times when he doesn’t know where to go or what to do defending set pieces”, “He has pace, strength and is an all-round pain in the backside for defenders. Whether he can deliver at this level we don’t know.”
“Ike Ugbo looks great already so I can’t wait to see how he develops as the season goes on.” The 18-year-old Chelsea loan signing “looks pretty decent and is a ray of hope”, “There’s something in there and he has a nice touch, but he was very easily manoeuvred off the ball by Bristol’s centre-halves.”
“Ugbo looks lively and has the beating of defenders on the turn. His pace is a useful asset”, “He has the raw material to be an excellent forward”, “He has good technique, is clever and has pace”, “He will be a Premier League player one day, but right now is still learning to be a Championship player.”
“It pains me to see Bradshaw having balls lumped up to him against 6ft 4in tall defenders. If he had a target man up top with him, he would be in double figures.” The 25-year-old former Saddler “would be better off alongside a more physical striker. It’s obvious he is crying out for a strong partner”.
“Bradshaw’s movement is exceptional and his work-rate first class”, “His strengths are his decent touch and link-up play, or arriving on to lay-offs to finish but he needs someone to create openings. “He works hard but I’m not sure if he’s quick, strong or clinical enough”, “It’s a big year for him.”
Tykes’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Ipswich were dreadful last season but still managed to beat us 4-2 on the opening day. Whereas they might not have improved, I think it's safe to say we have got a lot worse. I think our defence is in for a torrid few months until they form a unit or we strengthen with more signings.”
“You can't argue, especially with Yiadom undergoing a medical at Huddersfield.” Barnsley don’t run prediction leagues on their message boards, but most Tykes are eyeing Saturday’s game nervously. “It’s only the second game of the season but I would say the Ipswich game is already a six-pointer.”
“I would expect Ipswich to be in the bottom five or six this season”, “I'm not so sure. Maybe if they get rid of Mick, but I'm pretty sure he'll keep them around mid-table”, “Having had the pleasure of watching Mick McCarthy give his all in a Reds shirt, I will always have total respect for the guy.”
“I'm not too sure about the Ipswich game. They had a good win last week but they have not invested significantly and look a fairly ordinary side”, “Ipswich got a good win against a Birmingham team who many expected to do well this season so who knows? It is far too early to tell who will finish where.”
“Martyn Waghorn is such an Ipswich signing, a hard-working journeyman”, “He was a great player early on in his career but lost his way a little. Having said that he will score against us on Saturday”, “Hardworking journeymen have helped keep Ipswich in the Championship every season.”
“If we beat Ipswich things will start looking up.” Saturday’s first home league game of the season is being viewed as a benchmark for how they will fare this year. “We lost at Ipswich on the first game of last season and went on a good run”, “Let’s see what happens against Mick’s mob on Saturday.”
The busiest Tykes forum is the friendly and knowledgeable Barnsley FC Fans Bulletin Board. My pre-season report on Barnsley also includes details of many of the comings and goings at Oakwell this summer.
Photo: Action Images
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