A dogged performance and win over Sheffield United may begin the process of revisionism of our early season performances. No longer was this a confused and rudderless ambling around the field of play but one that was still gelling and putting in some determined performances in defeat. Saturday’s game may be a sign of better things to come following some poor performances to open the season but it is still too early to tell.
The win against Sheffield United may have owed a great deal to our opponents who, after a dominant opening 20 minutes, quickly ran out of ideas and played into our hands by punting long balls right onto the heads of Webster, Willis and Johnson. Against a Barnsley side who have the confidence of their first win of the season as well as a different playing style, the qualities of this Coventry City side will be tested in a different way.
Whilst the determination and work-rate from every player on Saturday cannot be faulted, it was a performance that left a lot to be desired in terms of quality, especially in attack. Whilst McQuoid and Tudgay worked incredibly hard to make sure our balls forward stuck, neither looked particularly like scoring and might struggle this evening against the more experienced and talented centre-backs which Barnsley possess.
That being said, the defensive display was highly commendable and we are starting to see the balance of the team blend together. On the left side of the pitch Reda Johnson’s sturdiness and composure allow Ryan Haynes, a very limited defender, the platform to get forward and combine with Danny Swanson who plays on the left of a midfield three. On the right, Jordan Willis and Jordan Clarke dovetail nicely to team up on the opposing wide player, with Clarke also providing balance to the marauding Haynes on the other side of the pitch.
With Reda Johnson and Marcus Tudgay both failing to play two games last week, tonight’s game will test their fitness levels, their experience is vital to the side. The main selection issue will be whether to stick with Josh McQuoid who worked hard but offered very little in attack or to finally hand the direct and purposeful Shaun Miller his first start, with new signing Simeon Jackson not fit enough for inclusion yet. Whilst Miller undoubtedly has impacted the last three games he’s come off the bench for, there’s an argument that he might not be able to make a similar impact from the start of games. There’s only one way to test that theory though, hand him the start.
Possible Line-Up: (5-3-2) Allsop; Clarke, Willis, Webster, Johnson, Haynes; Fleck, O’Brien, Swanson; Tudgay, McQuoid.
Last Time We Met
The last time we met tonight’s opponents Barnsley was not that long ago considering that this is the first time in three seasons that the two sides are contesting a league fixture. Back in January we edged past a Barnsley team who were still in the early days of manager Danny Wilson’s return to Oakwell. Jim O’Brien, now of this parish, opened the scoring for our opponents but late goals from Franck Moussa and Leon Clarke, scoring his final goal for the club, were enough to earn passage to the FA Cup 4th Round and a glamour tie with Arsenal.
Overall, we generally have a pretty good record against Barnsley, particularly at the various places we have called home. However the relative stature of the two teams is of a different nature than both fans are used to so past form might not be a particularly good indicator of the way this fixture might pan out.
How Are They Doing?
After winning at Crewe on Saturday, Barnsley appear to have avoided a post-relegation hangover which many clubs seem to suffer when they drop into this division. Like us, Barnsley’s squad is almost completely new look, only two players who started on Saturday were with the club last season. Danny Wilson is still looking to find the right balance with his squad at Oakwell so this could well be a pretty good time to take them on.
Barnsley’s starting 11 is fairly strong for League One level. The central defensive partnership of Martin Cranie and Lewin Nyatanga, although both flaky performers at Championship level, will be a tougher test than Sheffield United’s defence on Saturday. Reece Brown, who endured a dismal loan spell with us two seasons ago, is set to start at right-back for Barnsley where he has started out in fairly good form.
In midfield Barnsley possess yet another former Coventry City player in James Bailey who impressed for most of his loan spell as part of Mark Robins’ side. His partnership with former Plymouth Argyle man Conor Hourihane bares a passing resemblance to the Bailey-Jennings partnership of the 2012/13 season with Hourihane offering bite in the tackle as well as a decent eye for a pass. With Dale Jennings still suspended Barnsley’s wide options are restricted to the inconsistent Keith Treacy and Luke Berry who is really a central midfielder.
Barnsley’s attack on Saturday was Sam Winnall and Leroy Lita, which is hardly a traditional strike duo with both possessing fairly similar qualities. Winnall, last season’s League Two top scorer, is yet to get on the scoresheet for the Tykes but has put in some hard-work off the ball in his first few appearances. Lita is a classic goal poacher who offers very little when he isn’t scoring. Barnsley’s front two will test our new defensive unit’s ability to defend on the ground and offer the threat of getting in behind our back-line.
Whilst Barnsley’s starting 11 is strong, the back-up brigade is largely made up of untested youngsters from the academy. That being said, defenders James Bree and George Smith as well as winger Dominic McHale impressed in pre-season and could become more recognised names over the course of this campaign.
Possible Line-Up: (4-4-2) Davies; Brown, Cranie, Nyatanga, Dudgeon; Berry, Hourihane, Bailey, Treacy; Lita, Winnall.
With a team that is still learning to play together, we need to take the confidence from Saturday’s win into tonight’s fixture. Parts of the play were very promising, particularly on the left-side of the pitch, however we are really lacking a presence in attack. We are a side that currently looks like it will be able to hold onto leads but will struggle if asked to chase the game. Barnsley will provide us a different test, both in their confidence and in their style of play. Tonight will test whether Saturday’s win was a new dawn or a false dawn.
Don’t forget though that Barnsley’s team is in a similar state to ourselves, that’s why I see this game petering out into a draw which both managers will be fairly content with. Prediction – 0-0.