Monday, 1 October 2012

A Red Perspective - Match Report: Barnsley 1-1 Ipswich

A Red Perspective

First Half:

A late equaliser from Stephen Dawson salvaged a point for Barnsley at home to lowly Ipswich this weekend, but it could - and probably should - have been so much more. The Reds went into this fixture on the back of a sublime 5-0 thrashing of Birmingham City at St Andrews last Saturday with adoring football fans around the country watching on in awe as Barnsley humiliated their underwhelming opponents live on Sky.

The home side were big favourites to win this contest after superb performances on the road against Blackburn and Birmingham, whilst the visitors were on a three game losing streak and had conceded eight goals in their last two outings away from Portman Road.

Ipswich started positively and showed their intent on not just rolling over for Barnsley - some neat football combined with a poor clearance from home debutant Tom Kennedy allowed Guirane N'Daw to try his luck but the Senegalese ambitiously fired over from 30 yards.

Barnsley played keep ball for a short two minute period early on but despite their tidy passing football, they couldn't find a gap in which to play through anyone and therefore continued to retain possession, going back to the defence on occasions.

Thanks to a woeful decision to award a free kick 25 yards out by the famously calamitous Trevor Kettle in only the sixth minute, the Tractor Boys took the lead, much to the shock of the home fans. A beautifully worked set piece from Lee Martin, Andy Drury and Aaron Cresswell enabled Drury to fool the onrushing Tomasz Cywka and lay off to Cresswell whose driven effort creeped under Ben Alnwick's body and into the net.

Any Barnsley attempt to push forward was well dealt with by a tenacious Ipswich defence looking to keep its first clean sheet in the last seven games in all competitions.

The Reds were playing some encapsulating football for small sections of the first half, but every time they tried to venture into the final third of the field, the physical centre back pairing of Luke Chambers and Danny Higginbotham comfortably averted all danger by outmuscling the likes of Chris Dagnall.

Ipswich were content with holding back and playing deep after going ahead, and their only real attacks after this came in the form of free kicks or the odd neat piece of play when journeying forward.

The workhorse that is Dagnall never gave up hounding the Ipswich defenders, pressuring them into resorting to negative long ball tactics - my thoughts are with the East Anglian fans who have to watch this week in week out.

With only ten minutes on the clock both teams had carved out chances but the majority of the play was in the middle of the park. Jacob Mellis was operating in his usual central role and pulling out the silky tricks to the delight of the home crowd.

Referee Kettle was fond of breaking up the flow of the game, awarding free kicks for the tiniest of nudges and disrupting the style of football the Reds like to play.

Whatever Barnsley seemed to throw at the Tractor Boys, they had it covered and the clear cut chances were limited for the home team who were below par up to just in this encounter after a fine run of magnificent performances throughout September.

Ipswich again attacked with confidence on the quarter of an hour mark and after a mistimed jump from stand-in captain Scott Wiseman, Ipswich were in and had veteran striker Jason Scotland bearing down on goal. He was quickly crowded out by a sea of red bodies however.

Ipswich were having most of the ball and only seconds after Scotland's chance, Daryl Murphy let fly with a snapshot from 20 yards but it lacked venom and Alnwick was grateful in collecting.

The visitors continued to extinguish every Barnsley attack carefully and were adamant in sticking to their long ball tactics, making it a difficult task for a team whose philosophy is based solely around slick passing football.

The Reds finally had their first shot of the game on the 20 minute mark but it proved no tough test for Scott Loach - the former England U21 'keeper saved Dagnall's strike comfortably after he worked himself into a dangerous position just on the edge of the box.

Two minutes later the home side were in again. This time it was the tricky Cywka who orchestrated the move with a delightful through ball into the feet of Dagnall whose misplaced cross was nodded away by the experienced Higginbotham.

This provoked a quickly executed counter attack from Ipswich who broke forward with Jason Scotland before the big striker cut in and laid off Lee Martin but the winger's effort was always rising over the bar.

After seemingly figuring out how to defend against Keith Hill's side, Ipswich had to cope with a few long punts upfield from Stephen Foster which will have been much to the gaffer's disapproval.

Favouring their left side, Ipswich continued to play down that flank in hope of exposing any defensive frailties they could find in Tom Kennedy - the new boy's preferred position is left back but Hill has had him operating in the right back berth so far.

After pulling themselves back into the game, the Reds were wasteful in their passing and on several occasions they lost possession when in good positions going forward. Cywka in particular was at fault a number of times - the 24 year old Pole was off the pace in Saturday's game.

Just before the half an hour point in the game Craig Davies tried his luck from just over 20 yards, but the Welshman could not recreate his heroics from last weekend at Birmingham as he dragged his shot a few feet wide.

Ipswich sustained their style of football and it was clear to see it was frustrating the Barnsley players. Furthermore, the route one play from the visitors was proving hard to deal with as the stocky Scotland's hold up play was fantastic thanks to his strength in abundance.

Barnsley were finally getting into the swing of things and the astute passing play was a joy to watch. Stephen Dawson was doing a marvellous job in the holding role.

Eight minutes before the interval Barnsley should have been level. Foster went up for an aerial ball and headed into the back of the net but the referee disallowed the goal, penalising the defender of impeding 'keeper Loach - Kettle was doing his best to make the Barnsley fans' blood boil.

The Barnsley faithful roared with ironic cheers on 40 minutes after the referee gave a rare decision in the home side's favour.

Barnsley went into the break feeling hard done by. They got back into the game after the early shock to the system and were undeservedly still behind.

Second Half:

Barnsley were invigorated going into second half and looked much more like the team that hammered Birmingham 5-0.

Ipswich came out and were much more physical in the second half, receiving the first of their five bookings on 48 minutes and rightly so as N'Daw recklessly tripped Cywka.

The Tractor Boys continued to frustrate Barnsley by playing very deep in their own half but Barnsley weren't just going to give up and resort to the long ball which Hill so regularly avoids.

The home side upped the tempo from the first half and some neat play and ingenuity from Mellis created another half-chance for Barnsley. Mellis' tidy through ball was just out of the reach of Dagnall and the onrushing visiting keeper grasped the ball tightly at the feet of the small Scouser.

Barnsley came out of the blocks with a real urgency but a breakdown in communication between Alnwick and Foster in the 50th minute gave away a needless corner which very nearly ended in the home side being given a mountain to climb as Alnwick did well to get down low to save Chambers' bullet header before Higginbotham's follow up was deflected wide.

Ipswich kept up their bullish style of play with goalscorer Cresswell going into the referee's notebook on 54 minutes after he hauled down Davies when the striker would have been through on goal.

Hill then made an inspired substitution bringing on local lad John Stones in place of Kennedy who'd had a solid game in his first appearance at Oakwell. This made something click in the team and the onslaught began.

Barnsley were swinging cross after cross into the box but Dagnall, only 5'8", was inches away from connecting on every instance, much to his own frustration.

56 minutes in and Barnsley had a free kick in a hazardous area but Davies wasted the opportunity and could only blaze his shot high and wide of Loach's goal.

Two minutes later Ipswich came extremely close to doubling their advantage when Lee Martin's acrobatic attempt bounced fractionally wide of Alnwick's left hand post after a long throw evaded numerous Barnsley defenders.

The Reds came their closest yet to drawing level when good vision from Dagnall allowed him to find the space to take a pass from Davies, and the small forward's left-footed effort trickled past Loach and rebounded off of the post only to be cleared by Higginbotham.

Stones' introduction to the game had injected a desire to win into this Barnsley team who were attacking with real energy and intent for lengthy spells of the second half but were unable to find a leveller or get past a stubborn Ipswich defence.

The home side were becoming increasingly angered by their lack of luck and midway through the second half, sub Danny Rose came agonisingly close to getting Barnsley back on level terms. Some silky footwork from Scott Golbourne and a switch on to his favoured left foot enabled him to send through Mellis who ran to the byline before smashing the ball across the face of goal only for it to pass Rose's foot by an inch.

Screams of handball echoed around the ground when Davies' volley seconds later appeared to hit an Ipswich man on the arm but ref Kettle waved away appeals for a penalty which further infuriated the Barnsley supporters.

Barnsley were camped in the visitors' half for a considerable amount of time in the second period and won a free kick in a menacing position when Chambers was adjudged to have felled Rose, but another lack in concentration - this time between Dawson and Mellis - gifted Ipswich possession but their resulting counter attack failed to threaten Barnsley's goal.

Dawson made amends moments later though, when he volleyed home a spectacular equaliser after an exquisite lofted ball over the top by the inventive Mellis. It was an acute angle for the Irishman but he did superbly to find a way past Loach. Barnsley were back in the game and deservedly so.

The home side were filled with confidence after that goal and the ox-like Dawson was growing stronger as the game ticked over. His determination to get the win and unquestionable work rate was a shining example to all modern day footballers.

Ipswich had a slight chance to pull ahead again with 15 minutes left when a fine run and equally good cross from on-loan Celtic striker Murphy was met by Nathan Ellington but the ex-Wigan man was always stretching and couldn't get a firm touch on the ball.

Barnsley again tormented the Ipswich defence with relentless pressure and they came excruciatingly close yet again when Mellis dispossessed an Ipswich body and Dawson marched forward before playing in Davies whose low whipped cross was completely missed by Rose who tried to convert with a cheeky backheel.

Seven minutes before the end Davies very nearly put Barnsley ahead with a stunning effort on the turn but the ball was comfortably palmed away by Loach.

Despite their endeavours, the home side could not find a way through and the constant pressure on Loach's goal produced some phenomenal saves from the 24 year old.

Full time at Oakwell and the game ended 1-1, but it should have been so much more for the Reds.

Dawson was instrumental and deserved his man of the match accolade.

Barnsley Ratings:
Starting XI:

Ben Alnwick - 7 - Didn't have that much to do over the course of the game. Made one wonderful save in the second half but his error cost Barnsley the points.

Tom Kennedy - 7 - Looked solid on his home debut but he didn't have the attacking intent that was need in the second half and was rightly subbed.

Stephen Foster - 7 - Like Kennedy, looked solid and had a comfortable afternoon. Was very unlucky to have his goal chopped off for an adjudged shove on Loach.

Scott Wiseman - 7 - Wasn't really noticed, which is a good thing when you're a centre back. He looks to finally have found his correct position in central defence.

Scott Golbourne - 8 - Posed a very real threat down the left flank and whipped in some fantastic crosses throughout the duration of the game. A very different player to last season.

Martin Cranie - 7 - Did his job well and anchored the midfield but it wasn't a stand out performance from him like he's put in before.

Stephen Dawson - 9 - A brilliant appearance topped off by a sublime finish. He got better as the game went on, never stopped running and rightly won man of the match.

Tomasz Cywka -7- Lacked a cutting edge and his head seemed to be somewhere else as a lot of passes were aimless and straight to a blue shirt.

Jacob Mellis - 8 - Another fine game from the attacking midfielder. Was the heartbeat of most moves and supplied a remarkable ball for the goal.

Chris Dagnall -8 - Never gave up as usual and was unbelievably unlucky when his effort cannoned back off the post. Had he been a few inches taller he may have had a hat-trick.

Craig Davies - 8 - Not quite the performance he put in last week at Birmingham but he had some very good shots saved well and played in some lovely crosses.


John Stones - 8 - Him coming onto the pitch changed the game. The team looked livelier and his forward runs caused panic at the back for Ipswich.

Danny Rose - 6 - Offered very little and needs to bulk up. He was never going to have it his own way against some very strong defenders and needs to cut down on the flicks as he lost possession a few times.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Attracting More Fans: How Do We Do It?

With the Tykes' most recent magnificent display being televised live across the nation, people all over the country got the chance to see the hard work and graft this team puts in and the resulting scoreline was a true reflection of the footballing philosophy Keith Hill and David Flitcroft have tried so desperately hard to imprint on this great club. The ever-declining gates at Oakwell obviously mean that the club will be making less money now, and Saturday's annihilation of Birmingham was the perfect advertisement to any fans who were hesitant over whether or not to part with their hard earned money to come and support the team. This blog post by The View From The Red Zone ponders over a few of the different ways that Barnsley FC could entice its fans to Oakwell.

There is a certain optimism in the air and a buzz of positivity around the club at the moment - this is solely down to HillCroft and is testament to their style of management and how it has impacted the team's performances. Their influence on the players and their methods both on and off the pitch have presented the Barnsley faithful who've stood by them through the tough times with a brand of football so aesthetically pleasing, it has rarely been witnessed since the glory days of Danny Wilson, yet the crowds on a Saturday afternoon seem to be reaching alarmingly low levels in this economic recession - just 8,088 observed the recent 1-0 triumph over Bristol City, a figure that would place us 3rd in the League Two attendance table based on the average crowds per game.

 More empty seats are appearing every week.

How Can It Be Solved?

There are several ways in which the club could try to encourage fans to flood through the turnstiles and occupy the increasing number of empty seats at Oakwell, but it's not entirely in the club's hands...

The first way is identified by a lot of fans themselves whenever the discussion of raking in the fans pops up, and this is cheaper prices. This year sees our glorious club embark on its 125th season as a professional football club and in homage of this, the club decreased ticket prices of the home game against Blackpool - a club also celebrating its 125th year as a club - to an extremely affordable £12.50. This did see an increase in numbers and a party atmosphere was soaked up by over 14,000 spectators - a healthy number compared to past attendances it must be said. However, it's not just the ticket prices that could be lowered. The club has to think of a way to reward its fans' devotion, and something I think could be highly effective is an offering of loyalty bonuses, so to speak; money off season tickets or a programme and pie for a fiver. It's the little things that can make the difference but football is a business now, not a sport and clubs thrive on making as much money as they can to stay afloat, so lowering the prices of tickets, food, merchandise, etc. may prove a hefty risk but could pay off in the long term.

Keeping up with the flow of the modern game is key and could attract supporters, take the scoreboard for example. The club announced last month that it is to be renovated and that the new one will be of a higher quality and will show in-game replays as well as pre-match Sky football. My honest view is that this is a great move by the club. It will inject a revolutionary type feeling into Oakwell and will signal the club's intentions of rejuvenating or improving fans' experiences at the ground, which can only be a good thing. Further ideas of modernising the club may very well be to upgrade the West Stand but it's inevitable that some fans would be censorious of this idea - it's the last remaining stand from the original ground and holds memories aplenty for a lot of senior supporters. Perhaps a new ground is the answer to our problems. Nevertheless, most stadiums in this day and age are now built in the shape of bowls which would invite criticism from sections of the Barnsley faithful as it is thought that these structures take the heart, soul and atmosphere away from matches. All of these require funding though, and this takes me swiftly onto my next point.

The current scoreboard - you can see it's faulty above the 'E'.

Investment could be the answer to all of our wonderful club's problems, yet it could very well be the destruction of it. Portsmouth are a fine and shining example to all those owners willing to put their club's safety into the hands of foreign multi-millionaires who only care for revenue and big names. They also lust success and will not tolerate hesitancy in managers bringing it. Investment can in fact be a way to drive fans away from clubs as Venky's London Ltd at Blackburn will be finding out very soon if they keep the calamitous Steve Kean on as manager any longer. The plus side of colossal investment is that it can provide a stanchion to build upon with reassured funds. It is more than likely that new owners would want to introduce a big name manager and big name players, luring the more hesitant people towards Oakwell whilst also sending the regular match-goers away. The takeover talk at Oakwell this week has excited everyone associated with the club but if one of the two consortiums - supposedly from Italy and Qatar - were to be successful in gaining ownership of the club and would subsequently show Hill and Flicker the door, they would be oblivious to the fact that they were getting rid of the best management duo since Clough and Taylor. This would then see our best football played since the 'Just like watching Brazil' era vanish in an instance. A perfect example of a club under an Italian curse, so to speak, is Watford. Giampaolo Pozzo acquired Watford in the summer and immediately brought in Gianfranco Zola as manager and started recruiting his own players - Watford have jokingly gained the nickname 'Udineford' from football fans as a reference to the ten players they have on loan from Serie A giants Udinese.

I believe they are the three best ways the club can convince people to get down to Oakwell and support the players and team. Of course, it's not club's decision whether or not investors decide to pump their money into Barnsley FC but the others can only be achieved by the club's own initiative, with perhaps a little bit of monetary help.

My Say On The Takeover Talk At Barnsley FC

Undeniably the best way to fill the stadium full to the brim with fans is by getting some rich owners on board who'll make promises they probably won't keep. I'm on the fence though with this here. For a small club like us whose attendance drops every week, investment could be brilliant but the thought that they'd give Hill and Flicker their marching orders is always at the back of my mind. I again allude to Watford when I say it doesn't always go to plan - they are currently hovering dangerously above the relegation zone in 20th position. I'm sure as a lifelong fan, Patrick Cryne will do all he can to insure a deal is in Barnsley FC's best interests. If all negotiations broke down between us and the two consortiums I can safely say I wouldn't lose sleep over it as I'm extremely satisfied with how we're playing and with the job HillCroft are doing.

Long may the good work continue. Up the Reds!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

A Red Perspective - Match Report: Barnsley 1-0 Bristol City

A Red Perspective

First Half:

Jacob Mellis was the difference between these two sides in a game that should have been more comfortable than it was for the home team. The ex-Chelsea man headed a home a superb cross from Martin Cranie in the 50th minute which kept up Barnsley's 100% home record, but that wasn't the main talking point; a two-footed lunge from Bobby Hassell on Bristol's Jon Stead reduced the home side to ten men, but that didn't matter in the end as a resilient performance in the second half gave the points to Barnsley.

On the back of conceding eight goals in two league games, Barnsley fought through late forward surges from a determined Bristol side who were in contrasting form going into this game, having scored eight in their previous two league outings.

Barnsley started the game very nervously and it was evident for everyone to see - both Ben Alnwick and Chris Dagnall dawdling on the ball resulting in losses of possession.

Bristol had the better of the opening five minutes, carving out several chances but never really tested Alnwick, looking to redeem himself from his red card on his debut.

More uncertainty about the new goalkeeper on six minutes as his poor clearance led to another Bristol chance but this time the Barnsley defence were quick to close down, causing Albert Adomah to aimlessly hoof the ball over the top in hope, but to no avail.

The home side were - against Keith Hill's style of play - resorting to the long ball up to 6' 2" marksman Craig Davies to try and create some chances to break the deadlock but there were no signs of Bristol's defence letting anything through anytime soon.

Another error in Barnsley's back line seven minutes in - this time from stand-in captain Scott Wiseman - allowed Stead to turn and unleash a tame curling effort but his deflected shot rolled harmlessly into the grateful arms of Alnwick.

Bristol continued to attack and were dominating the game until Tomasz Cywka dribbled his way down the centre of the pitch before sending the ball out to his left to find Davies in acres of space, and the Welshman let fly with a bending effort that cannoned back off of Thomas Heaton's left-hand post to Mellis whose scuffed attempt ricocheted wide for Barnsley's first corner of the game.

The tide of the game was beginning to turn in Barnsley's favour, and they started to pile on the pressure with two threatening corners being met by Stephen Foster's headers but the away defence dealt with them comfortably.

Pinball in the Reds penalty area on 13 minutes created a half-chance for Bristol, but the ball wouldn't drop for Martyn Woolford, as Alnwick got down well to smother it and avert any danger.

Any attacks down the left wing for Bristol were always cut out by the tremendous Cranie on his home debut - a solid performance from the Coventry old boy went down brilliantly with the vocally strong crowd on Saturday.

A quarter of an hour into the match and appeals from Barnsley fans for a penalty for handball went unheard when Davies' strike appeared to have hit Bristol City defender Louis Carey on his lower arm.

Having come closest to opening the scoring, Barnsley pushed on to try and find this important first goal and as hard as they tried, they didn't succeed. They again came close just before the 2o minute mark when Mellis' lofted ball into the box was cleared out to Hassell who beat two players, passed to Dagnall on the right-hand side of the area, and the 26 year old's snapshot was well saved by Heaton after a neat turn on the edge of the box.

The resulting corner caused havoc in the Bristol penalty area and some slack movement from Adomah allowed Cranie to win possession and play a neat little ball out to Mellis who blazed his effort way over the bar. The signs were positive and Barnsley were getting closer.

Midway through the first half and the Reds were firmly on top of this encounter now, breezing forward with ease and troubling Bristol's defence with any chance they got - Cywka brilliantly working his way away from Woolford before chipping a lovely ball to the far post but unfortunately no one was there to head home this crisp cross and the ball was nodded away by Carey.

Sloppy play from Mark Wilson a minute later gifted the ball to Davies and he drilled a 25 yard shot low and hard but it was straight down the centre of the goal and into the thankful arms of Heaton.

Barnsley came their closest yet to getting on the score sheet when Cywka found space on the edge of the area and dinked a lovely ball on to the head of Davies and his downwards header was palmed away superbly by Heaton and the ball was then deterred from all danger as Adomah hacked the ball high upfield.

A nifty run from Dagnall just before the half hour point allowed him to play in a low ball but his cross bounced off the leg of Cywka - nothing the Pole could do about that.

Barnsley were fully into their stride now and were creating chances galore, Cywka and Mellis being at the forefront of every Reds attack and some great vision from both played in Davies on two occasions but the striker failed to conjure up a goal. Mellis was then played through by a terrific ball from Stephen Dawson but he fired his attempt inches wide of Heaton's left post.

The away side had time to regroup in the five minutes that followed and looked to be holding off Barnsley's forceful attacks well until Dagnall squirmed into the box and laid the ball off to Davies whose quick-fire shot sparked half-hearted appeals for a penalty for handball from the Barnsley faithful, but the referee wasn't having any of it.

Some excellent passing and movement from the whole midfield line and full backs five minutes before the interval allowed the Reds to work their way into space and Mellis further bettered his already fantastic performance by sliding the ball into Dawson who flicked it up and struck his left-footed volley into the ground. The ball was destined for the bottom corner but Heaton got down well to grasp it.

Barnsley came even closer to breaking through on the stroke of half time - Cywka playing a sweet ball through the middle for Dagnall to run on to but the striker was just beaten to the ball by Heaton who collected it whilst receiving a blow to the head due to Dagnall's momentum causing him to collide with the Bristol number one.

Second Half:

The second period kicked off and Bristol City brought on Marvin Elliott for the ineffective Adomah to keep up with Barnsley's packed midfield - the winger struggling to cope in his unnatural position of central midfield.

Five minutes into the second half and the Reds got that breakthrough they so thoroughly deserved - Mellis planting his header on to the underside of the crossbar and in after a magnificent cross from Cranie.

Things took a turn for the worst only a minute after the goal as Hassell's rash foul was deemed to be worthy of a red card by referee Steve Rushton. The full back went in high on Bristol striker Stead and could have no complaints after being given his marching orders.

That sending off opened up a portal for Bristol to get back into the game but Barnsley were not to be pushed over and held a tight defensive line as Bristol struggled to show any real penetration.

Bristol came their closest yet when pinball madness in the penalty area resulted in the ball bouncing to Sam Baldock nine yards out, but the £1m+ man could only find Alnwick's gloves when under intense pressure from the home defenders.

This chance sparked a flurry of attacks from the away side but Barnsley were holding their own with only ten men - Cole Skuse the first to try his luck but his effort from distance was well blocked by Wiseman.

With an hour of the match surpassed Barnsley brought on teenage prodigy John Stones for goal scoring hero Mellis, and also introduced Marlon Harewood who replaced the impressive Davies - This made something click and the Reds were suddenly in the ascendency again.

Despite Barnsley's dominance so far, some good link up play from Stead and Woolford - combined with poor keeping from Alnwick - allowed the Bristol winger to nip in behind the 'keeper and with only Stones on the line, Woolford's header brought an outstanding block from the 18 year old local lad - however, the ex-Scunthorpe maestro really should have equalised.

Bristol brought on Ryan Taylor on 67 minutes in place of new-boy Baldock to try and find a goal to level the scores.

The sending off of Hassell meant Barnsley had to resort to a deep defensive line and the Robins were finding it difficult to pierce through this stubborn back four, having to alternate to long shots instead of trying to writhe and wriggle their way through.

Another half-chance for the visitors with 20 minutes remaining on the clock - this time a whipped cross over to the back post meant substitute Elliott was always stretching to get a good connection and his slight touch sent the ball behind for a goal kick - relief for Barnsley.

Bristol brought on more attacking strength on 73 minutes when Steven Davies - recently signed from Derby - replaced midfielder Stephen Pearson, and Davies was involved in the action straight away. Greg Cunningham played a 40 yard pass right on to the penalty spot and as Alnwick came out, flapped, and completely missed the ball, Davies only managed to steer his header wide when he should have done better.

The instrumental Cywka was trying his luck again with 77 minutes gone as he dispossessed Davies, ran at the visiting defenders and fired wide from 25 yards when he had options either side in Harewood and Dagnall.

The Reds were persistent and kept darting forward whenever possible - Dagnall and Cywka doing extremely well on several instances and showing true grit, determination, and that never say die attitude.

Bristol came closer yet - Davies again heading an inch wide of Alnwick's right-hand side post when he should have done better, and despite having the man advantage, the away side were on the back foot for most of the remaining ten minutes after Harewood and Dawson broke through the Bristol back line with some energetic bursts of football.

Barnsley very nearly doubled their lead with the clock ticking over into injury time as Stones steamed forward and curled a lovely ball around the away team's centre back that landed at Harewood's feet but the striker just couldn't get any power behind the shot and the covering defender got back to clear the ball off of the line and into Heaton's appreciative arms.

Bristol struck the bar in the 91st minute through Davies as his free kick thundered past a stranded Alnwick in goal - an equaliser would have been harsh on Barnsley who had been the better side for long periods of the game and had shown fantastic resilience after going a man down.

Barnsley did everything they could to keep the ball in the corner to run down the timer and intelligent play from the remarkable Harewood allowed him to convince the away defenders he was going to the corner before quickly shifting his path inwards and bearing down on goal, and from a tight angle he couldn't beat Heaton in the City net.

Full time at Oakwell and the final score finished Barnsley 1-0 Bristol City.

Jacob Mellis heading home the winner.

Barnsley Ratings:

Starting XI:

Ben Alnwick - 6 - Poor distribution from the keeper and tended to flap at everything. One decent save in a below par performance.

Martin Cranie - 9 - A phenomenal performance from the new boy. He adapted extremely well in various positions and supplied a marvellous cross for the winner.

Scott Wiseman - 8 - Looks to be finding his feet now he's being played at central defence, and despite a shaky start, looked commanding at the back and made some crucial blocks.

Stephen Foster - 7 - Assured as always and had a couple of chances in the first half. He seems to be past his best Oakwell days now but is still always a reliable player at the back.

Scott Golbourne - 7 - Great going forward and has a lot of flair for a defender but does have a tendency to get caught out and is more than often having to track back.

Bobby Hassell - 7 - Decent up until the sending off, which was unlikely for a man of his experience. Was the heart of a few attacks in the first half too.

Stephen Dawson - 8 - Seemed to be carrying the team when they needed it after the dismissal. Could be an ideal captain as his communication is second to none.

Tomasz Cywka - 9 - Man of the match and deservedly so. A magnificent performance and some amazing footwork that could only have been topped off by a goal.

Jacob Mellis - 9 - Played his role brilliantly until he was subbed off. Took his goal well and created a fair few chances and could very well turn out to be better than the old Jacob, we'll see.

Chris Dagnall - 9 - After coming under recent criticism, he may well have silenced doubters with an amazing performance that warranted a goal. Sublime work rate and never gives up.

Craig Davies - 8 - Fantastic hold up play from him and was very unlucky not to grab a goal after he hit the post. This could be a great season for him.


John Stones - 8 - Outstanding. That clearance may well have won the points for Barnsley and he never stopped going until the final whistle. A few misplaced passes but that'll go with experience.

Marlon Harewood - 8 - Came on to do a job and did that job, and did it very well. His hold up play mirrored Davies' and his strength was vital when it came to keeping the ball in the corner.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Summer Transfer Window: Wheelings And Dealings

Barnsley fans tend to dread the time when the transfer window comes around, and with good reason to. It is normally the case that the best players at Oakwell are destined to move on, be it an uphill or downhill move, and this summer has so far proven to be no different with creative captain Jacob Butterfield packing his bags for a move to the bright lights of the Premier League with Norwich City. However it's not just the outgoings that are the vitriolic reminders of why Barnsley fans hate this time in the calendar year... Many incomings have created a sense of worry and false panic, and this was shown through Keith Hill's signings in his first year at Oakwell - he brought in League One players who against the odds, performed at consistently higher standards than most of our so called 'Championship-proven' players. So here starts my quick look over our new recruits so far...


Of course, there's no better place to start than with the Egyptian ace that is Mido, the man who astonished a whole nation when he penned a one-year deal at Oakwell. Formerly of Ajax, Marseille, Tottenham and Middlesbrough, Mido was brought in by Keith Hill seemingly to replace the void left by hold-up man Andy Gray, and on my first and as of yet only viewing of him, away at Alfreton, he did just that despite not being heavily involved in proceedings. He did show Dagnall-esque qualities though as he blazed over the bar from six yards out. Since his Premier League days he's flown back to his native Egypt and due to the financial struggles in his homeland's top division he offered to play for a mere £1,000 a week. In his two year hiatus away from England he's piled on the pounds and won't be fully fit until September at the earliest according to Hill. Despite the increase in his weight that will undoubtedly have affected his abilities, fans can take solace in the fact that he will be able to bring a wealth of experience from his time across Europe with him to Barnsley to benefit others and may be able to showcase skills he learnt from past strike partners such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Didier Drogba.

I and many other fans will be hoping this tremendous coup will prove to be another Ricardo Vaz Te story, and if Hill can nurture Mido like he did with the Portuguese superstar then he'll be sure to make opposition defenders quake in their boots. However, getting Mido up to that standard will prove to be a much sterner test and will really assess Hill's capabilities. Mido and Hill will know that with strong dedication and endeavour from the both of them could see the stocky striker rediscover his form from his early career days which saw him transfer between European giants.

Mido in action on his debut - he needs to shed the pounds.

Tomasz Cywka

Now I've been a fan of the tricky little Polish attacking midfielder for a couple of years now. The creative star will bring added flair to an already inventive side and his scintillating runs will entertain the adoring fans and attract the crowds. Derby fans don't understand why Nigel Clough released him from his contract, and on recent evidence their views can only be backed further. An impressive debut against Rochdale saw him grab two assists after coming on from the bench. A similar player to Jacob Mellis, the two could go hand in hand in the centre of the park.

Putting in a man of the match performance in the game vs Bristol, more appearances like that would surely propel Barnsley up the table. However, like Vaz Te, he is only on a year-long contract and it is essential that we tie the 24 year old down on a longer basis before he the curse hits Barnsley again and we lose another gem for next to nothing in January.

Cywka's talent will delight the crowds.

Kelvin Etuhu

Kelvin Etuhu was a player who Keith Hill has been fond of for a while now and after pursuing his signature last term, he finally got the young Nigerian to put pen to paper on a one-year deal at Oakwell. On the books of Manchester City as a youngster, he never showed the talent expected of him - appearing a disappointing ten times in five years - and was loaned out on various occasions to Football League clubs where fans around the country got glimpses of his unquestionable quality. Combining electric pace with his silky dribbling, he could be a deadly opponent for defenders in the forthcoming season and being able to operate anywhere across the forward line could pay its dividends for both the Yorkshire outfit and Etuhu himself. This isn't the first time Hill has worked with Etuhu - he was on loan at Rochdale in 2007 under Hill's reign which fits the 'Hill DNA' as some fans like to call it.

Brought in as the first signing in Hill's second season as a Championship level manager, he'll have a tough job working his way to being an fan favourite such as other past wingers Jamal Campbell-Ryce, and more noticeably, Adam Hammill. In March 2011 Etuhu was handed an eight month prison sentence following an attack the previous year, and most fans will more than likely be hoping the speedy Nigerian winger will be able to replicate this dynamic attitude and aggression on the pitch.

Etuhu has pace to burn.

Jacob Mellis 

Ex-Barnsley loanee Jacob Mellis was sacked by Chelsea in March this year following a training ground incident in which Mellis set off a smoke bomb, and after trial periods at QPR and Burnley, the creative Nottingham-born midfielder signed a two-year deal at Barnsley. Following on from this, police were called to his home in April after a fight broke out between him and his girlfriend. This signing triggered debate amongst fans as shortly after the episode that got him sacked, Keith Hill told the media he would not have someone who could disrupt the high-spirited morale around the dressing room in his team, yet went back on his word only three months later - which is not like Hill, given his stubborn nature.

Offering a range of qualities to the team, Mellis could be a real star for Barnsley this season and could outshine most other young prospects in the league. His perfectly executed passes can unlock defences with relative ease and he knows how to strike a ball as well as possessing decent pace, which for a central midfielder is vital - especially in a league which is as demanding as the Championship. Despite being touted as a new star, Mellis does reiterate the fact that he feels he is not a young hotshot anymore so this season is a chance to prove his worth to the manager, fans, and the footballing world.

The signing of Mellis is a signal of intent from manager Hill as he promised Championship quality players - and Reds fans know all about Mellis' eminence - after two goals and a handful of brilliant performances in early 2011. Mellis was signed ahead of other central midfielders Oliver Norwood and Lee Williamson, who now play for Huddersfield and Portsmouth respectively. Brought in to replace the old Jacob, the new Jacob brings with him the abilities of former captain Butterfield and is a similar sort of midfielder to the new Premier League player, with respect to his physical and mental attributes. All in all he is a very exciting addition to the squad and I for one look forward to seeing him play week in week out.

This is Mellis' second spell at Barnsley.

Toni Silva

In late July speculation circulated around Oakwell after it was revealed that a Liverpool player would be joining the revolution at Oakwell on a permanent deal. Names were thrown around by fans such as Conor Coady or Nathan Eccleston - the latter of whom spent time on loan at Rochdale, not under Keith Hill's time in charge I may add - but Keith loves Rochdale players both new and old, doesn't he? It was eventually announced that Portuguese winger Toni Silva was the man who was signing for the South Yorkshire outfit.

Now I can't say I've seen that much of Silva playing but from what I've heard from the Liverpool faithful, he's a great player who has lightning speed in abundance and is a fantastic dribbler who knows how to create chances. He did spend a period of last season on loan at Northampton Town, notching only one goal in 15 league appearances, and the reviews I've got from The Cobblers' fans vastly contrasting, with supporters saying that he's not good enough to cut it at this level. He'll have to prove those fans wrong by putting in some good shifts at Oakwell to get ahead of fellow wingers Jim O'Brien, Kelvin Etuhu and Matt Done.

A video of Silva's two goals on his Liverpool U18s debut.

Ben Alnwick

Brought in to cover for Luke Steele, journeyman Ben Alnwick hasn't had the best of starts to life at Oakwell after being offered a chance to resurrect his career by Keith Hill. Prudhoe-born Alnwick was highly touted to be the next great English 'keeper when he completed a £1.3m move to North London to don the white of Tottenham in 2007 as an inexperienced 20 year old. Seven loan spells in four years never allowed him to show his potential and as a result, was released in the summer of 2012.

When he first signed for Barnsley some fans went as far as to say in him and Luke Steele we had "the two best shot stoppers in the league" and I was quick to agree with that statement, until he made his debut... He has been nothing but average in his first few games and along with being given his marching orders on his first start, has made countless errors. Mixed with poor distribution and even poorer kicking, it would appear the standard of Alnwick's game is on par with that of mistake prone Vito Mannone - yes, that bad. However, the season is young and the now 25 year old has plenty of time to make amends for his meagre performances.

Alnwick needs to improve after his first few games.

Marlon Harewood

Marlon Harewood, like Jacob Mellis, is now in his second stint at Barnsley after a spell that gained him mixed reviews from Barnsley fans, and in my eyes, the four goals in ten games that the ex-West Ham, Aston Villa and Blackpool striker scored only resulted in him giving a good account of himself. Now back at the club after a period in China and then at Nottingham Forest, he's restarted his Barnsley career without putting a foot wrong. The big man looks like the ideal replacement for Andy Gray and has the perfect physical stature to hold the ball up as well as chip in with a few goals. The Hampstead-born forward also brings fantastic positional sense to the squad, and that could be the difference between winning or losing games. Amalgamated with Craig Davies, Harewood's strength and awareness could prove to be half of a fruitful partnership with the Welshman and I for one cannot wait to see how it pans out.

Harewood in action away at Wolves.

Martin Cranie

The eighth and final signing of the summer for Keith Hill. Martin Cranie provides extreme versatility which could cause problems aplenty for Hill regarding his selection choices. He can play anywhere across the back four as well as just in front of them in a defensive midfield role and that's a key element in any successful squad - being versatile. Another free transfer, Cranie's last club was newly relegated Coventry City, where he was highly rated amongst the Sky Blues fans, and his time at the Ricoh Arena also brought Cranie the most successful stage in his career so far.

Not the tallest of defenders at only six foot, a good leap gives him that extra inch in the air needed to beat his opponent to the ball which is pivotal. Assurance is guaranteed in abundance as Cranie is a no-nonsense, solid centre back who gets his job done efficiently. A very similar player to Jimmy McNulty in a certain sense - operating in different positions is a big part of his game, and he portrayed this magnificently in the recent win over Bristol City, in which he delivered a sublime cross to allow Jacob Mellis to head home the winner.

Versatility personified - Martin Cranie.

Final Verdict: 

These additions to the squad will bring a lot of different attributes into an already great side that has enough power to swerve a relegation dogfight with ease. Pace, dribbling, passing, vision, power, awareness - just a few of the skills that these players have and with these signings Keith Hill has assembled a quite remarkable squad on a shoestring budget.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Barnsley FC Season Preview

So it’s nearly upon us, the most highly anticipated time of the normal football fan’s calendar year – the start of the season, and to say Barnsley fans will be optimistic could be a bit of an understatement. The high profile signing of Mido along with other Championship standard players has instilled a confidence in the fans that is unfamiliar to some of the younger generation, and this has been reflected in the team’s performances in pre-season. However, that won’t stop the bookies having us down as favourites for relegation.

The current squad on paper looks a lot stronger than last year’s squad, which consisted of lower league players who were full of determination and strived to do well, as opposed to established names that resided in the squad just to pick up a wage. Manager Keith Hill has tried to find a balance of both dedication and reputation in players this summer, and his signings have demonstrated his ability to find the right players that really make a team work efficiently. Kelvin Etuhu is a fantastic example of a player who has had experience in the Championship yet has the commitment to do well and give 100% effort. Despite these exciting signings, Hill has been slandered by some fans for bringing in a host of so called ‘bad boys’ in Etuhu, Jacob Mellis and Mido.

Three players will be vying for the number one spot this season; Luke Steele, Ben Alnwick and Lukas Lidakevicius. All great keepers in their own comfort zones making it a tough call for Hill when deciding who to pick, especially if Ben Alnwick starts the season off well with Steele’s on-going injury keeping him on the sidelines. In my eyes, as soon as Steele is back he has to go into the starting line-up, and I think his player of the season award would agree with me. One of, if not the best shot stopper outside the Premier League and if he keeps up the performances of last season then he’ll soon be in contention for an England call up, which would be thoroughly deserved.

The flying Steele - Luke Steele was player of the year last season.

What is still lacking at the club is a natural leader, and Hill has stressed his desire to bring in a commanding central defender to play this role. The creative Jacob Butterfield and ever-present Stephen Foster have been some of the most recent captains, however they never quite had the vocal presence that, in my opinion, some of the players at the club now have like Stephen Dawson and Jim O’Brien.

The midfield area is looking very strong and the recent acquisition of Portuguese whiz kid Toni Silva has injected even more pace and skill into an already very technical midfield. Jacob Mellis will bring even more technicality to the squad and has the advantage of already knowing some of the players so will fit right in after his loan spell in early 2011. Jim O’Brien will be up there fighting for a place on the wing with Etuhu and Silva and he brings extreme passion to the team which is vital in any successful squad. The strength in depth in central midfield will prove a good attribute and Hill will know this after losing his three most influential central midfielders in January. The rest of the midfield is packed with a mix of both defensive and offensive players in David Perkins, Matt Done, Stephen Dawson, Paul Digby and Jordan Clark, who all have the potential to be Championship quality, if not more.

The final third of the field is where we really need to stock up on, with only one striker in the squad who will be able to cause any real threat to strong defences; Craig Davies. A fantastic debut season has been followed on with some confident pre-season performances; in particular Alfreton away, in which he looked sharper than ever, grabbing two very well taken goals. Aside from the Welshman, the forward department comprises of Chris Dagnall, Danny Rose, and of course the heavily talked about Mido, who has looked off the pace so far. With the right guidance from Keith Hill, all four strikers could flourish throughout the coming season.

Finally onto the messiah, or what most football fans would call a manager; Keith Hill is still a newbie in football management, having only been in the industry six years. His style of play graces the field beautifully at Oakwell and it’s not since the glory days of Danny Wilson have we seen this free flowing football. Could this season see the return of the old saying ‘It’s just like watching Brazil’? Only time will tell. All this said and done, I think a 15th place finish would be a magnificent achievement given the budget Hill’s had to work with. So I leave you all with four words that breathe optimism and enthusiasm... 


What a coup - Mido, holding up the Barnsley shirt.