Barnsley are enduring an indifferent start to the campaign on their return to League One since the 2018–19 season, following their relegation from the Championship. The South Yorkshire side are unbeaten in their last three games and there is hope they can kick on.

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There is desperate need for stability just over a year after Barnsley finished fifth and made it to the EFL Championship Play-offs for the first time in 24 years, with one of the smallest budgets in the league and the youngest squad under the management of Valérien Ismaël.

Yet they began the 2022-23 season with their sixth permanent manager in the last four years, as Michael Duff has led them to 11th place in League One after 11 points from their first eight games.

Barnsley have scored ten times and conceded nine so far and there is much work ahead as they seek an immediate return to the championship.

Slow start to the season

The Tykes marked their return to the third tier with a 1-0 loss to Plymouth Argyle, with Duff getting his first win against former side Cheltenham by the same scoreline a week later. That set the tone for Barnsley’s season as inconsistency has characterised their progress so far, thus, they are yet to string consecutive wins in League One.

Three defeats in the first five league games followed as the squad sought an identity and performances. Things came to a head in that third defeat, a 3-0 bashing against Wycombe Wanderers at Oakwell as Duff suffered his first home loss as Barnsley head coach.

Shot to the arm

That crushing home defeat which came four days after their biggest win of the season (3-0 against Bristol Rovers), seems to have galvanised Duff’s men as the 2-2 draw at Ipswich Town proved a particular turning point.

The Reds recovered from going down in both halves through Jack Aitchison and Callum Styles and had goalkeeper Bradley Collins to thank for some heroic saves late on as they dug deep for a well-earned point at Portman Road.

Denying their hosts three points and top spot worked a treat as Barnsley followed up that result with a morale-boosting 2-0 win over South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday, for their first away win of the season.

With real character and grit now apparent in their performances, Barnsley finally gained points in consecutive league games and things are looking up.

The postponement of fixtures in England over the death of Queen Elizabeth II provided some welcome extra preparation time on the training ground ahead of the visit of Port Vale.

Although a late equaliser denied Barnsley sweet victory, the 1-1 draw showed enough desire as they are finally hitting their stride.

Key players so far

Josh Benson
The young midfielder has come into his own this season as he emerged as the team’s top scorer so far. Benson maintains a strong relationship with his manager who also coached him in Burnley’s youth team, and finally scored his first Barnsley goal with the extra-time winner against Middlesbrough in the EFL Cup First Round.

That feat sparked the 22-year-old into a confident streak as he also netted in the next two league games.

Benson’s three goals and two assists already this season have been immense for Barnsley as he hits the most productive form of his career to date.

Brad Collins
The ex-Chelsea goalkeeper has been typically instrumental to Barnsley’s fate this season as they navigated a rocky start to the campaign.

Collins has been key to some of the points won this season due to his important saves in match-defining moments, and is one of Michael Duff’s reliables having let in nine goals in eight games, keeping three clean sheets.

Now in his fourth season at Oakwell, the shot-stopper is growing into his role as the team’s safe hands and at 25, will continue to improve as the season goes on.

Luca Connell
The midfielder joined Barnsley on a free transfer from Scottish champions, Celtic over the summer and has emerged as his new team’s creative force.

The 21-year-old is responsible for three assists already and his performances have steadily improved as he settles into his new surroundings.

Connell is a menace with the quality of passing and set-pieces from his left foot, and those attributes are set to remain a vital asset to the team’s hopes.

What to expect for the rest of the season

Barnsley have done well to steady the ship after loitering in murky waters as they came to terms with the step down to League One.

Michael Duff is finally stringing a tune out of his team after 13 new signings largely on a small budget. The Northern Irishman has seen his team go unbeaten in their last three league games and will be looking to extend that run for a drastic rise up the standings.

The Tykes are showing their ability to score goals, get results and react to in-game situations, qualities that stand them in good stead during the marathon of a gruelling League One campaign. Indeed, there is a boundless margin for improvement as they hope to rally into a playoff place.

On Saturday, the Reds suffered defeat at the hands of Sheffield Utd, leaving the Reds having to look at a chasm of 5 points between themselves and Reading, all whilst making a chance of survival that much more difficult. But there is still a possibility of survival, with Reading still to come to Oakwell after the International break. 

But that’s all it is. A chance. 

Thus, being the curious person I am, I thought I’d run the numbers, and see what the chances of the Reds’ survival are, whilst simultaneously running them against my gut feeling. But more on the latter later. 

So, the numbers. According to ‘Twenty First Group’ analytics, following the latest round of Championship fixtures, the Reds’ chances of survival are 30%. Okay it’s not a huge chance, but it is a chance. 

Believe it or not, (you probably will believe it to be fair), after the 2-1 defeat to Luton Town in early February, the chances of Barnsley surviving in England’s second tier were 8%. Data scientists reckoned that there was a 92% chance that we would have to suffer the indignity of standing on the roofless terraces at Gillingham and Accrington. But all jokes aside, the fact that in the space of 7 games Poya’s Tykes have increased their chances of survival by upwards of 22% is pretty good, and it gives us a real chance. The magnitude of April 2nd’s fixture against Reading cannot be understated and 3 points are a must. In terms of the entire picture, my gut tells me that it will go to the final day at Mowatt and Dike’s Baggies. But who knows. 

Onto the Royals though. We genuinely need to hope and pray that they don’t have a royal flush. For the non-poker players out there, that is where you have the best possible hand, and effectively win by default. Because if players like Lucas Joao, Junior Hoilett, Scott Dann and most scarily John Swift, perform like they can, I worry deeply for our safety. However, it would be silly to say that said players’ form is good, and if anything it’s poor. Particularly Junior Hoilett, who, according to the experts at Canada Sports Betting has failed to set the Madejski alight this term. I’m sure they would’ve been expecting more from their international star. 

However, following their 1-0 victory over a slightly haggard Blackburn Rovers side, ‘Twenty First Group’ have the Royals’ chances sitting at 70% for survival and 30% for relegation. 

That gives me hope. It gives me hope that we could even have survival tied up going into the last couple of fixtures, and the importance of April 2nd’s fixture against Reading is cataclysmic. 

Obviously the Reds have to keep winning games of football, but if we win that game in particular, I think that the Three Little Birds’ lyrics will ring true at Oakwell - and Every Little Thing Gonna Be Alright.

Any Barnsley fan knows that it has been a tough season so far in the Championship. Sitting towards the bottom of the table to date, relegation into League One is becoming a bigger worry with each passing week. However, there are enough games left to pull off a miraculous escape and catch teams who sit just above them in the table.

If this were to happen, it would surely be one of the biggest stories in English football this season. It could also pay off handsomely for any Barnsley fans who like to bet on games and are backing the team to stay up. If you do like to wager on games, a good tip is checking out the football betting stories at Premiership Bets first. This is a trustworthy site which brings the latest football news to help you make more informed bets.

Regardless of whether the team stays up or sadly goes down to League One, there will be certain key players manager Poya Asbaghi should be looking to build around to improve next year. But who might they be?

Liam Kitching

It is obvious that the defensive side of Barnsley’s game needs to get a lot better moving ahead. A major part of this could be 22-year-old centre back Liam Kitching. Initially signing from Forest Green Rovers in January 2021, an injury kept him out until the final game of the 2020/21 season. He has played a bigger role in this campaign and showed he certainly has the ability to play at a decent level. When you also add in his versatility (he can play left-back as well as centre back), he looks to be an excellent young player to keep hold of and build around in the future.

Josh Benson

Josh Benson's arrival from Burnley in 2021 was a great move by the club and he certainly looks like a signing with great potential. He, like Kitching, is also in his early 20s, and this makes him another young player to build around. A skilful midfielder, his passing and experience of playing football at a high level should all make him a vital player in future years. He is also pretty good from set-pieces and brings a valuable youthful energy to the side.

Callum Styles

Also playing in midfield, many Barnsley fans will want to hang onto Styles in the future and build a team around him. If he can really strike up a good partnership with Josh Benson in that area of the pitch, it could spell something magical. At 21, Styles also has time on his side plus a very competitive nature and eye for goal.

Barnsley need to hang onto key players

Whatever happens come the end of the season, there is no doubt that Barnsley need to hang onto key players like those above. We would, of course, include Cauley Woodrow in that list – but who knows if he’ll still be around beyond 2023! If the side can build for the future around the players above though, it could work out well for them.