A combination of some unlucky results, injuries to some key players, as well as others not finding their feet this season, are where many fans will place the blame, whilst others will claim that the buck stops with the manager. Regardless of whether or not the manager is directly to blame, many fans will recognise that the next two games will be crucial in deciding who will manage the football club for the rest of the season, with 12 games marking the quarter mark of the season, and a point where many clubs evaluate their manager’s future.
The next two home games then, provide the perfect opportunity for the Reds to get their season back on track, with Saturday’s tie against Middlesbrough kicking proceedings off following a much-needed international break, followed by a crucial South Yorkshire derby against Sheffield Wednesday the following weekend.
Both teams sit in the bottom half of the table, with Wednesday joining Barnsley in the relegation zone, ahead by one point, having played a game more, and Middlesbrough lying in 16th, 7 points ahead of the Reds. Both games, as are any games in the Championship, are very winnable, but crucial if the Reds are finally to kickstart their season. By next weekend, Barnsley could well be out of the relegation zone, however the term ‘relegation six pointer’ springs to mind when thinking ahead to the Wednesday game, who’s boss Dave Jones is also under fire.
What perhaps is the most baffling aspect of this season, is that Barnsley have shown just what they are capable of in terms of performances under Flitcroft when achieving the great escape, yet have been incapable of replicating them, despite what is arguably a stronger squad on paper.
However the balance of the squad has come into question on a number of occasions, with calls to give Dale Jennings a chance on the left wing seemingly unanswered, whilst out-of-form Jacob Mellis is persisted with, despite being noticeably out of position. Performances of the whole team have improved over the last few games, despite not getting the results to match, which many fans have attributed to the arrival of Ronnie Glavin’s second coming, Paddy McCourt.
If the Reds are to get back to the form they produced to achieve ‘the great escape’, then they must also return to the winning formula that allowed them to go on such a great run. With a hard-working, no-nonsense attacking and pressing game, the Reds were capable of making some of the division’s top sides look extremely ordinary - yet it appears that Flitcroft has overcooked the formula and tried to continue his predecessor Keith Hill’s slow build up play, having had less weight on his shoulders at the start of the season. By sticking to what worked previously, demanding performances from players, and setting the stall out to win each match with nothing to lost, Barnsley produced some of their best performances since returning to the Championship. If that style was replicated over the season, I feel that Barnsley could yet be a surprise package this season. However, if Flitcroft persists with the system he has used so far this season, the Wednesday game may well be his last.
Don’t forget you can follow me @MichaelRoach55 on Twitter as well as @OnThePontyEnd. Please comment below with your thoughts on these next two games and what remains of this season. Thanks for reading!