Following last week’s derby delight against Doncaster, many Reds’ fans like myself will have switched on Radio Sheffield for the post match reactions. It was said by the presenter at the time that whilst Barnsley had played well during the game, Doncaster had certainly put up a less than desirable fight, and most certainly deserved to be beaten. The presenter also added that the true test for the Reds was to come against Leeds United in their next game, which would provide a completely different challenge to Doncaster on the basis of their respective league positions, both past and present.

As discussed in my last post, “The Bank of Oakwell?”, Nile Ranger joined the Reds this week and was pushing to start in the Reds’ first on the road derby of the season, but only made the bench. Keith Hill also perhaps surprised fans with another selection, with Danny Drinkwater only returning to the bench following the suspension which kept him out of last week’s home tie against Donny, leaving the side unchanged from last week’s win.

Tactically speaking
The Reds, as they have done for the majority of the season lined up in 4-2-3-1 with unchanged personnel from the last time out. This meant that skipper Jacob Butterfield remained in a deeper midfield role than he has become accustomed to this season, with Matt Done fulfilling the ‘role in the hole’ for the second game in a row following a barnstorming performance against the Rovers last week. The Reds’ game plan naturally had to change from last week however, with Leeds providing much more threat going forward than Doncaster, albeit without getting the relevant number of shots away. As always with the Reds, the key was the collective with the side working for one another, aiming to pass into space and get behind the Leeds defence.

Leeds lined up in their traditional 4-4-2, making one change from last week’s Sky broadcast game v Burnley, with Tom Lees coming in for Darren O’Dea in the centre of defence. The key to Leeds’ game was the Scotsman Robert Snodgrass, with the wide man regularly coming inside from the right flank onto his favoured left foot in order to try and test Luke Steele between the sticks. In terms of passing style, the aim was to get the ball forward quickly into wide areas in order to try and provide tests to the Reds’ defence, which remained resilient throughout. Another key part of Leeds’ game were the evident endeavours to try and win free kicks in key areas of the pitch, with both of Leeds’ front men in fact receiving yellow cards during the game for various attempts to deceive the officials.

The Positives
The Reds remained resilient throughout, with Keith Hill’s side enjoying the majority of the quality possession during the game. Following Ricardo Vaz Te’s curled goal in the 27th minute, which arguably the White’s on-loan keeper Alex McCarthy should have saved, the Reds were certainly comfortable, and within the first half at least looked like the only probable winner. After what had been a quiet first half for Jacob Butterfield, the midfielder fired a shot just before the stroke of half time, which was saved by their keeper. However, when the rebound fell to the in-form Craig Davies, there was clearly going to be only one outcome, putting the Reds two up within the surprisingly quiet Elland Road to make it 5 goals in 5 games.

When the second half came, Leeds naturally had more edge to their game and made every effort to get the Leeds faithful on their side. The game fired up with a series of fouls from both sides, with cards and free kicks being handed out like sweets from the man in the middle. Leeds were able to get back into the game in the 55th minute from a stunning Ross McCormack free kick, however barring an over the bar shot from Snodgrass, Leeds were kept out for the majority of the second half.

The 66th minute saw the introduction of new loan signing Nile Ranger, who had an impressive impact on the game, consistently holding the ball up and bringing the impressive Done into the game. It was clear to see that the striker had both strength and pace, and that fans could expect to see a lot more from the youngster in the near future. Through tireless work and endeavour the Reds were still able to carve several chances throughout the second half, with Ranger providing essential hold up work on many an occasion. The Reds might have felt aggrieved with their last chance of the game, with Matt Done being slightly slow in sliding into Jim O’Brien’s impressive cross, which with any contact would have almost certainly hit the back of the net to see the Reds out of sight.

The last ten minutes was to typify in my opinion the commitment that the current group of players has shown. Leeds continued to grind away at the defence but were unable to get past the roadblocks, with tackles continuing to fly in all over the pitch. The home faithful could have been right to think that they were right back in it at the end, when David Perkins collected his second yellow card of the game, giving the tireless midfielder his marching orders. The sending off allowed the potential of a grandstand finish, when a series of attacks caused a Jay McEveley mistake to allow them in, with the ball falling to Ramon Nunez. Luke Steele, who had a rather quiet afternoon, was certainly not going to give Leeds the share of the spoils however, and made the incredible decision to leave his line and then block the shot from Nunez in stunning fashion, signalling a deserved chant of “England’s number 1” from the ever vocal travelling support. Undeterred, Leeds persisted in desperately trying to get their essential equaliser throughout the final moments of the game, with tackles continuing to fly in from all areas of the pitch. The final whistle blew and the Reds were perhaps left relieved, but had gained no more than they had deserved.

The Negatives
Clearly within so many positives it would be difficult and almost harsh to point out any negatives within the performance, however in order to mount any serious challenge this season the Reds will know they will need to cut out a few mistakes within their game.

The first negative was the Perkins red card. The tireless midfielder, who received much acclaim from the travelling support throughout the game, might have been slightly disappointed with the manner in which he received both his yellow cards, in which he gave away two crucial free kicks. Of course another disappointment in Perkins’ dismissal is the fact he will miss the next game against Peterborough United, which will be a shame for the 29 year old, as his performance would have almost guaranteed the retention of his place within a midfield that has proved impressive in recent times.

Secondly was the lack of marking on Robert Snodgrass on the Reds’ left hand side. The Reds’ allowed him too much time and space, which on another day could have reaped much more reward. Snodgrass might have felt unlucky not to have scored at some point during the game, with a couple of efforts flying just over the crossbar. With Ricardo Vaz Te clearly lacking defensive quality, the Reds must find a way to help out Jay McEveley at the back when right wing threats such as Snodgrass come to town.

Finally was the skipper’s performance. It is obvious that Jacob has quality in heaps, however must add the mental maturity to his game in order to go any further this season. At times the skipper bit off more than he could chew, and let Leeds in at least 3 times, with one of the occasions leading to the passage of play which required heroics from Luke Steele to keep out Ramon Nunez. He also needs to work harder defensively within a midfield ‘2’, and without David Perkins next week, Butterfield could have a real tough test on his hands if he doesn’t add the defensive side to his game quickly.

Ratings, line-ups and man of the match

Leeds – McCarthy (6), Connolly (6), Kisnorbo (6), Lees (5), White (5), Sam (5), Howson (6), Clayton (6), Snodgrass (7), Becchio (4), McCormack (6)

Subs – Nunez for Sam (6) [57], Keogh for Becchio (6) [68], Pugh for McCormack [N/A]

Barnsley – Steele (7), Hassell (6), Foster (7), McNulty (7), McEveley (6), Perkins (7) [sent off], Butterfield (5), O’Brien (8), Done (8), Vaz Te (7), Davies (8)

Subs – Ranger for Davies (7) [64], Drinkwater for Vaz Te (6) [64], Wiseman for Done (ET) [N/A]

Man of the match – Matt Done. It was certainly difficult to pick out any stars in what was a fantastic team performance, however Done constantly caused the defence problems and provided some great hold up play in the midfield to take the pace out of Leeds’ game on several occasions. Done has made it 2 great performances in a row, and might have got the award last week at Oakwell if it weren’t for Davies’ brace.

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Great post for everyone who couldn't make it to the game today. £36 was a heavy price pre-Christmas to pay.