Where We Are
A barely believable win over Rotherham United has re-awakened our push for the play-0ffs with 7 points taken from the last three games. However that win over the Millers has come at a heavy cost with Conor Thomas picking up a concussion which rules him out of tomorrow’s cup tie and Callum Wilson potentially out until March. These two injuries have added to an injury list that also included John Fleck and Jordan Clarke with the squad further depleted by Danny Seaborne and Chris Dagnall completing their loan spells at the club. Whilst the Rotherham win was a welcome boost, tomorrow’s FA Cup match feels like a game too soon.
To help cover the shortfall the Dutch striker Denzel Slager has been signed on an 18 month contract but it is unclear whether clearance will be given in time for him to make an immediate debut. All in all it looks like there’ll potentially be another experimental line-up and formation in a cup tie. As much as Barnsley is an eminently winnable fixture, the circumstances have meant that we’ll be unable to pick anything like our strongest line-up to go out and show how good we really are.
The positive side is that John Fleck could return meaning that we won’t have to play a midfield two of Adam Barton and Billy Daniels. However should Slager fail to get clearance for the game then we could see a front two of Leon Clarke and Billy Daniels with Barton and Fleck in midfield, which doesn’t strike me with much confidence.
Last Time We Met
Coventry have a fairly good overall record against Barnsley and inflicted a 1-0 defeat on the ‘Tykes’ during our most recent season in the Championship. However Coventry’s record at Oakwell is poor and we’ve only won twice their in our entire history, although those two wins have come in the past 6 years. The picture above illustrates Coventry’s last game against Barnsley where the ‘lethal’ front pairing of Clive Platt and Alex Nimely came up trumps with the former scoring the game’s only goal.
How Are They Doing?
Barnsley have spent nearly a decade in the Championship keeping their heads above water. Every year they seem to have one of the worst squads in the division but they keep on keeping on to maintain their second-tier status. Last year saw Barnsley pull off one of their most unlikely of escape acts, having sacked former boss Keith Hill they couldn’t find a replacement but the caretaker David Flitcroft got the side firing and they eventually survived thanks to a final day draw with Huddersfield Town. This season though has seen the old hooded man with the scythe hover over Oakwell once again, Flitcroft couldn’t maintain the team’s form and was sacked in December. Their new manager Danny Wilson, the man who took them to their Premier League, has yet to win in his first four games in charge. There’s little money for reinforcements and the club sit bottom of the table with just under half of the season to go.
The key players at Barnsley include former Coventry centre-back Martin Cranie. Cranie was impressive at City when finally played as a centre-back looking composed and calm, however looking at the highlights of that doomed season in 2011-12 you can see he was responsible for just about as many goals conceded as ones he prevented. Cranie played a vital role in last season’s miraculous survival for Barnsley and he remains a vital cog in their back 4.
In midfield they have a number of technically gifted players who are perhaps guilty of lacking consistency in their performances. Paddy McCourt is the most talented but most frustrating amongst Barnsley’s glut of creative midfielders. On his day his astounding dribbling ability is approaching a level similar to his countryman George Best. However a lack of fitness and physicality make those moments of inspiration fairly sparse. Similarly Tomasz Cywka is an attacking midfielder also capable of the odd wonder goal with ‘odd’ the operative word. Jacob Mellis is a fairly regular goal-scorer from midfield but lacks consistency despite being a genuine menace on his day.
Up front Barnsley have a number of options although they have a ‘much of a muchness’ feel to them. Their best striker, and probably player, is Chris O’Grady, a target man who is their top scorer this season and has been linked with a move away from the relegation threatened Yorkshiremen.
Finally the ‘Tykes’ have a number of returning loan players available to them who will be looking to stake a claim for a first-team spot under the new manager. These include Chris Dagnall who is returning from a loan spell with us having made a reasonable impression with his work rate rather than his technical ability.
As outlined at the top the injury issues make this game feel more onerous than it seemed like being. Rather than a chance to show on the national stage how we might handle life in the Championship this is now simply a game to get through. A trip to a side that has other priorities than cup glory may result in a low attendance and recreate the sense of underwhelming that occurred initially when the draw was made. My hope is that this Barnsley side are still so poor that they’ll struggle against a Coventry side playing with the wind starting to gather in our sails. However Barnsley have a large squad to pick from and our injury list may mean that we’ll find it hard against even a back-up and half-hearted Barnsley side.
I’m going to be an optimist though and plump for a 2-1 win.