Barnsley FC drop deep and drop closer to Championship relegation

IT WAS Albert Einstein who said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

In terms of Barnsley’s tortuous season, the above quote sadly rings true.

Should the Reds go down – the odds on it shortened considerably after Saturday’s events – it will have a fair bit to do with some atrocious summer recruitment, a poor head coaching appointment in Markus Schopp and a deviation away from a pretty successful playing style.

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It will also be due to their infuriating, reckless and repeated propensity to drop deep and invite pressure, particularly during the tail end of finely-poised matches.

Carlton Morris and Barnsley were frustrated by Reading. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Carlton Morris and Barnsley were frustrated by Reading. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Carlton Morris and Barnsley were frustrated by Reading. (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

For it to happen in comfortably their biggest game of the campaign on Saturday was reprehensible, more especially when the hosts were without arguably their most important defender in Michal Helik.

Despite his side trailing for a good while, Paul Ince knew the script and didn’t panic.

“Barnsley started to drop back, we smelt it and sensed it”, he correctly opined afterwards. The governor’s team subjugated the hosts in the final quarter and hey presto, they had their point. Just as Stoke and Fulham also did at Oakwell in recent times.

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In truth, the Reading manager was given more second-half trouble at Barnsley by the pitch invader who he famously tackled during Liverpool’s visit to Oakwell almost 24 years to the day.

Danger man: Reading's John Swift (Pictures: Getty Images)Danger man: Reading's John Swift (Pictures: Getty Images)
Danger man: Reading's John Swift (Pictures: Getty Images)

His only gripe on this occasion will be that his Royals side did not exit the stage with three merited points. Although one will probably be enough after this survival summit which most sooth-sayers deemed as one that Barnsley really had to win.

There are lies, damn lies and statistics. Barnsley have scored in both halves of a league game on just two occasions this season. In the last 15 minutes of league games, no Championship side has scored fewer goals (four). They have conceded 16 times.

In terms of points won and lost after the 75th minute of league matches in 2021-22, they have won none and let 12 points slip through their fingers.

Hence, a major reason why Barnsley are where they are.

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Callum Brittain, someone who can refreshingly always be counted upon to deliver candour and honesty in his musings, was on the button once again in his post-match observations to the press.

He commented: “Conceding late equalisers is a running theme. If something is consistently happening, there is a reason.

“We didn’t know what to do after going 1-0 up. We dropped intensity in our pressing and we were loose in the second half. We need to realise what situation we are in.

“The goal was devastating.”

Given events at Oakwell of late, Barnsley’s decision to sit on their slender lead – given to them by a deadly early drive from Carlton Morris – was all the more baffling, in a game when Reading boasted 63 per cent of possession.

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Unfortunately, Morris was subsequently inhibited after picking up a knock later in the first half.

It limited his mobility and effectiveness and at a time in the second half when Barnsley were starting to toil and Morris needed a bit of help up top, the hosts required another body to compete with Reading’s backline and keep them occupied, Clarke Oduor was called for and not the bulk of Victor Adeboyejo. It was down Oduor’s side that danger man John Swift increasingly ventured and profited. Swift and several other senior Royals players such as Danny Drinkwater, Lucas Joao and Tom Ince were talked up afterwards by Poya Asbaghi. But they are hardly footballing royalty, either.

The Pontefract Road end provided second-half fuel, but it was Reading who applied the real heat. A last-ditch block from Brittain denied Lucas Joao, but Barnsley were on the edge.

The wall broke with a sad air of inevitability eight minutes from time when Swift’s cross from the left found Michael Morrison, who teed up Josh Laurent. Fresh from his glorious winner in the previous game against Blackburn, the midfielder – who Ince had toyed with bringing off – tucked the ball home from close range.

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A scruffy goal, but ugly can be beautiful and in the most important second half of both Reading and Barnsley’s season, the former played the decisive hand on a day when the Royals extended their unbeaten sequence at Oakwell to 10 matches en route to their fourth successive 1-1 draw there.

The raucous Royals following of 1,574 sang ‘We are staying up’ with gusto and fervent belief and why wouldn’t they.

They almost sucked in a winner with Brad Collins making a fine parry to keep out Swift’s curler while Liam Kitching made a vital block to thwart Tom Ince.

At the other end, Brittain had a chance to nick it, but there was no spectacular late encore or Patrick Schmidt/Oduor moment.

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The clocks might have gone forward, but Barnsley continue to go backwards and beat a retreat in the final quarter of games.

In a season which has resembled death by a thousand cuts, this was the most painful moment. Quite possibly the fatal one.

Barnsley: Collins; Brittain, Andersen, Kitching, Vita; Wolfe (Adeboyejo 90), Gomes; Quina, Bassi, Styles (Oduor 69); Morris. Unused substitutes: Walton, Benson, Iseka, Moon, Palmer.

Reading: Nyland; Yiadom, Morrison, Holmes, McIntyre; Laurent, Drinkwater; Ince, Swift, Ejaria (Dele-Bashiru 78); Joao. Unused substitutes: Southward, Thomas, Rahman, Dann, Azeez, Ehibhatiomhan.

Referee: K Stroud (Hants).

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