Preview: Barnsley

Still buzzing from Saturday?

Nothing like a Tuesday night game against Barnsley to remind yourself of the long grind the footballing season can be, eh?

It would be remiss of me not to point out that we did beat Peterborough in the exact same circumstances last year and completely failed to capitalise on the momentum. It is important to remember that three points in a dramatic comeback against Peterborough has given us exactly as many points as a scrappy away win in Fleetwood. Winning promotion is about putting together runs of wins rather than any big result.

But what a result on Saturday though? Especially after that first-half where everyone, in particular our players, appeared utterly beguiled by the level of performance Peterborough produced. It looked like a lot of the worries about this team that had been quietly bubbling away in the background had finally burst open and torn this team asunder. We were about to get thrashed, it looked like this game we’re about to play now would be about how the reaction to a drubbing.

Instead, this game is about putting ourselves into contention for automatic promotion. An inspired half-time change in introducing Jim O’Brien swung it in our favour, the team suddenly looked far more gritty and determined to get back into the game. The comeback was less about specific tactical alterations and more about sheer will and determination to claim the win.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

The obvious thing for Tony Mowbray to do now would be to use the same eleven players who hauled us so doggedly back into the game on Saturday, but something a little different may well be required against Barnsley. Whereas Peterborough wanted the ball and we required energy in the midfield to hassle them, Barnsley are likely to be happier to sit back a bit for the result. Tonight could well be in need of craft over graft.

Whilst I would imagine that Jim O’Brien may well start this game, his style seems to be more suited to faster-paced games where there’s less of a need to stick his foot on the ball and pick tightly-marked team-mates out. Joe Cole could well be more suited to the type of game we’re likely to find ourselves in, although fitness concerns may see him begin this game on the bench. The need for craft though could see Ruben Lameiras start ahead of Ryan Kent, with the switch being a likely substitution later on.

Last Time We Met

We had a frustrating time of it against Barnsley last season, for differing reasons. The first meeting was the last Coventry City ‘home’ game at Sixfields where we twice took the lead and twice gave the lead away, the first Barnsley goal being a wonderful Conor Hourihane free-kick and the second an absolute clanger from Ryan Allsop in dropping the ball from a routine cross right in front of Leroy Lita.

The second meeting came on the day Tony Mowbray was appointed manager back in March but too soon for him to take charge of the team. Following on from a fantastic win against MK ‘Dons’, there was hope we could use this game to launch some late momentum and perhaps even challenge the play-off spots. Barnsley took the lead from some slack marking at a set-piece in a dismal game between the two teams to seal all three points. We also didn’t make the play-offs.

How Are They Doing?

Our last meeting with Barnsley game in the midst of a run of form under their newly appointed manager Lee Johnson that had them believing a play-off run was possible. Despite a late drop-off in form, Barnsley looked well placed to launch a more concerted run at promotion this season. They looked to have improved a decent-looking team from last season in the summer and Lee Johnson looked like a young and exciting manager who could really get them going.

A 2-0 win over Gillingham at the end of September capped an okay-ish start for Barnsley who were in 8th position in the table. A disastrous run of form in October where they proceeded to lose six out of six league games has them sitting third from bottom and Lee Johnson on the brink of the sack.

It’s a strange one as Barnsley are a decent-looking side with some very dangerous players, looking more closely at their recent performances too they’ve been fairly unlucky to lose most of their recent games. That’s probably down to the lack of experience at the club currently, which was a deliberate strategy during their recent recruitment drives as they looked to bring in young, dynamic and hungry players that they could develop and sell on at a profit.

A strike pairing of Sam Winnall and Michael Smith though is one that most League One teams would be more than happy with. Winnall is a hard-working striker and a pretty lethal finisher too, currently Barnsley’s top scorer. Smith is a physically strong and tall target-man striker who has scored against us with three different teams (Colchester, AFC Wimbledon and Swindon) and, without fail, on every occasion he has played against us.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

Aside from those two, Ben Pearson, on loan from Manchester United, was mightily impressive in our last meeting as an energetic deep-lying midfielder. Josh Scowen is similarly a midfielder who plays with energy, albeit in a more box-to-box fashion. Southampton loanee Lloyd Isgrove could really be one to watch though, the winger/attacking-midfielder impressed with his ability to drift past players and supply a final ball at Championship level whilst with Sheffield Wednesday last season.

Barnsley could be boosted heading into this game with the possible returns of midfielders Conor Hourihane and Marley Watkins. Hourihane was integral last season with his goal return from midfield, whilst Watkins impressed on the wing last season with Inverness as they won the Scottish Cup.


This game could be tougher than many are anticipating, Barnsley may be in a poor run of form but they haven’t been playing terribly and they are likely to be desperate for something here to salvage their season. We’ve had a habit this season of helping teams out in similar states of crises, losing away to Scunthorpe and dropping two points in the final five minutes against Swindon. Even if you look at the Crewe, Chesterfield and Southend games, we made things unnecessarily awkward for ourselves against teams we should really have put to the sword.

But, I am feeling pretty confident heading into this game. That win on Saturday feels like it was a real watershed moment and we saw that we have several real big game players in our team. It’s a different challenge trying to get a result against a team struggling on a Tuesday night, but I believe we’re in a much better state to get results in these kind of evenings this season, even if things haven’t quite worked out that way thus far this season.

I’m predicting a 2-0 win for Coventry City.

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