Games don’t get much bigger than this: on Saturday, Reading travel to Oakwell for a pure six-pointer. Beat Barnsley and the relegation race may well be done and dusted in our favour, but lose and the momentum will swing right into the Tykes’ favour.
It’s only made me even more nervous about the game to see how confident our Barnsley source for this Town End was. Joe Beardsall from the YouTube channel Red All Over gave some of the more optimistic responses we’ve had, sticking his neck out to back the Tykes to not only win comfortably on Saturday, but also to stay up.
Then again, it’s not without good reason. The Tykes not only have form for edging out Reading, pipping us to a play-off spot last season (sorry for reminding you), but have also been resurgent recently. In their last nine league games they’ve won four times and drawn twice.
What’s been behind the drop-off from last season?
There’s several reasons in my opinion as to why Barnsley have gone from two games away from the Premier League to facing the possibility of relegation. Most of our rapid decline is due to a summer of transition which couldn’t have been handled much worse to be totally honest! We lost our head coach, Valerian Ismael, and captain, Alex Mowatt, to West Brom. We also lost our CEO to Nottingham Forest, meaning we faced a summer without anyone permanent in that vital role.
This led to us recruiting a head coach in Marcus Schopp who just was the totally wrong fit for Barnsley. He didn’t understand us fans at all, he seemed to upset some of the players and ultimately destroyed our play-off momentum and the positive vibes quickly turned to negative around Oakwell.
We also recruited poorly in terms of the players we brought in over the summer with only a couple making any sort of impact. Add in a few off-field frustrations towards the ownership and many fans were rightly upset and some even angry which just made life even more difficult for our young players who were already totally void of confidence. Those first six months of the season were some of the hardest during my time supporting the club but thankfully things are on the up again now!
What are the main strengths of this Barnsley side?
Barnsley’s main strength is Carlton Morris. He’s the best player at the club, he’s a leader, a fantastic footballer and most importantly has the right mentality to get us out of this situation. Even during the difficult months, he’s given us a chance in games.
We also have a cracking goalkeeper in Brad Collins who has had a wonderful season overall and the two new loan lads, Bassi and Quina, have given us the energy and spark we needed to give us a fighting chance of survival. They’ve lifted the whole team and now we look like the side we were last season again.
How about weaknesses Reading can exploit?
Our main weakness right now is if we go a goal down we don’t tend to come back; we’ve only picked up points from losing positions four times all season so if Reading score early it could be game over. We also seriously lack quality off the bench so often run out of steam in the last 15-20 minutes but our current starting 11 is full of quality now.
How optimistic are Barnsley fans of staying up?
I’m a 6/10 on us staying up which I know sounds very optimistic but I see a team now that is very capable of winning consecutive games at this level. Annoyingly, it took us until February to find that quality starting 11, adding in four new faces, but I believe we could pull it off again. That said, we have left it very late this time so it’s going to be very close.
How do you predict the relegation fight will play out?
I know I’m biased but I do believe Barnsley will stay up and you can all laugh at me Reading fans if I’m wrong, I will take it on the chin! I just think many of these lads have experienced us pulling off the great escape two seasons ago, we have the quality now and are playing with confidence so I could see us putting together a string of results.
I’m not saying we will win all eight remaining games cos that would be silly and I do think it’ll go to the wire, but I reckon we could win four or five, but feel free to laugh at this answer and call me a mad man!
How will the game go and what will the score be?
Barnsley’s problem is on the road; at home we have looked really strong in recent times and I heard Reading have a couple of players out injured so I’m going to put my neck on the line, and again, feel free to laugh at me Reading fans but I think it’ll be a 3-0 win for Barnsley because it screams of a winner-takes-all game where if one team gets in front they could run away with it as the pressure mounts for the other side. I’m hoping Barnsley will be the team who run away with it!