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.

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.
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Ian Wilkinson

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