Date:Wednesday January 18 2012
Barnsley FC - Half Term Report
After a summer of ups and downs at Oakwell, in which Mark Robins departed and was subsequently replaced by Rochdale management duo Keith Hill and David Flitcroft, little was expected. Although in this special report for Vital Football, quite the contrary.
An energetic and pleasing on the eye team have regularly performed above expectation levels competing against teams with far greater resources.
After losing captain and current player of the season Jason Shackell to Championship rivals Derby County in a deal believed to be in excess of £1,000,000, lesser known players such as Jim Mcnulty and David Perkins were brought in to fill the void, along with Rochdale duo Matt Done and Scott Wiseman. Also recruited was journeyman striker Craig Davies after numerous clubs, he earned his move to Oakwell after a sensational season at local rivals Chesterfield. Other incoming players were proven Championship defender Rob Edwards, Loanees Daniel Drinkwater and Miles Addison and a bit of a wildcard in the shape of former Bolton striker Ricardo Vaz Te. After unconvincing spells in Greece and Scotland, Keith Hill decided the mercurial front man was worthy of a 12 month deal.
Eyebrows were raised from the off at the lack of investment and marquee signings, and the fact that the majority of acquisitions were from the lower reaches of the English game, Meant that yet again Barnsley were favourites for the dreaded drop.
Going into the opening day, a tricky trip to Nottingham Forest managed by former England coach Steve McLaren, Barnsley went there with nothing to lose yet it could have been oh so different had Craig Davies` header been an inch lower. A credible nil -nil draw an excellent platform to build a season on. After disappointment in the Carling Cup to lowly Morecambe, confidence remained high going into a double home header against Southampton and Middlesbrough. Back down to earth with a bang! Two extremely good teams were far superior to ourselves, leaving the boo-boys with plenty to shout about, some naive fans even calling for Hill to go. What a week, a new captain was appointed in the shape of academy product Jacob Butterfield and on to Reading we went. An outstanding performance from Luke Steele helped Barnsley gain their first win of the season. Steele saved two penalties, and then goals from Stephen Foster and Matt Done gave Barnsley a 2-1 victory at the Madjeski. A bore nil-nil at Milwall concluded August leaving Barnsley with 5 points from 5 games and an undefeated away record, which considering recent seasons was a massive feat for Hill and Flitcroft.
Player of the month - Luke Steele
After the international break the squad had big games to look forward to, either side of a home clash with Watford. A home game against Sven`s big spending Leicester and a trip to Carling Cup holders Birmingham. Barnsley again defied the odds with all three games finishing 1-1. Yet the results were an injustice based on the level of performance shown, our free-flowing game was starting to get into full flow, new captain Jacob Butterfield pulling the strings in midfield with the much improved Jim O`Brien`s work rate proving to be a real asset on the right flank. September`s final game came in the shape of a trip to Pride Park, where awaiting us was former captain Jason Shackell and yet again a 1-1 draw, Jacob Butterfield getting on the score sheet in his second successive game. An undefeated month in which Barnsley maintained the undefeated away record, excellent all round month.
Player of the month - Jacob Butterfield
October began with a game against lowly Coventry and after numerous 1-1 draws a win, 2-0 Andy Gray with a brace securing Barnsley`s first home win of the season. Gray after struggling under previous management showing when fully fit still had the ability to perform at Championship level. A trip to the south coast to play Portsmouth followed in front of the Sky cameras, in a game of two halves Pompey showed their class turning in an excellent second half performance to eventually win 2-0. After the long trip a Tuesday night home game wasn`t ideal but Burnley came to Oakwell in a rich vein off form, which counted for nothing on the night Keith`s men winning 2-0. Butterfield again on the score sheet which set the rumour merchants off as to where Jacob`s long term future would be, Ricardo Vaz Te also opened his account for the reds in this game. Then 2 defeats a high scoring game away at Cardiff City finished in a 5-3 defeat and a home game against bottom of the table Bristol City was somehow lost 2-1, where Craig Davies notched his first for the club. A disappointing end to the month yet the positives were there for everyone to see.
Player of the month - Jacob Butterfield
A response was needed and a game against Hull City beckoned, a resilient defensive performance the catalyst to a much improved 2-1 victory, strikers Davies and Gray the scorers. After another disappointing long trip this time to Brighton and Hove Albion two derby`s to look forward to. First up a Doncaster Rovers side featuring El Hadj Diouf, no problem a lacklustre Donny team were ripped apart by a reds team who could have finally found their number 9 in Craig Davies. He bagged both goals which took the reds to Elland Road in high confidence, again the reds were outstanding showing consistency that had dogged them in previous seasons. A hard working performance resulted in a 2-1 away win Vaz Te and Davies beginning to look lethal despite the late dismissal of tenacious midfielder David Perkins late on.
Player of the month - Craig Davies
After successive wins Barnsley really were on a high leading into a trip to recently promoted Peterborough, a pleasing game for the neutral ended in a 4-3 victory for the reds, O`Brien finally rewarded for his hard graft with his first of the season. The usual trio of Butterfield, Vaz Te and a Davies screamer notched the other goals. A Tuesday night game against Carling Cup semi-finalists and much improved Crystal Palace followed and couldn`t have started any better 7 Seconds and Vaz Te had wrote himself in the record books, an absolute screamer from 30 yards left Speroni in goal clutching at air as Vaz Te became Barnsley quickest ever goal scorer, he then doubled his tally to leave Barnsley with four wins out of four going into a home game with low on confidence Ipswich Town, surely a win?. Not to be the case 2-0 up at half time an injury to Danny Drinkwater gave Ipswich the impetus to go on and win 5-3 at Oakwell, defensive cracks were beginning to appear. A forgettable couple of games followed in the shape of a 1-0 defeat at West Ham and a Boxing Day hammering by Blackpool. Nothing could dampen the spirits of the final game of 201 though, Leeds arrived at Oakwell seeking revenge after the early exchanges Michael Brown clinically took Jacob Butterfield out of the game, leaving Butterfield out for the remainder of the season and Hill to describe the tackle as a "old pro`s tackle". On this occasion though we had Vaz Te to replace him and boy did he a hat-trick and another by Davies left the final result Barnsley 4 Leeds United 1. A fitting way to end the year and with Keith Hill in charge 2012 promises to be an enjoyable ride.
Player of the month - Ricardo Vaz Te
Date:Wednesday January 18 2012
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