Jose Morais must act fast to find cure for Barnsley homesickness

Jose Morais, the Barnsley boss
Jose Morais, the Barnsley boss
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THE first official day of Spring and International Day of Happiness may have both been celebrated this week.

But do not expect many Barnsley supporters to have taken too much notice.

The dejected walk away from Oakwell on a match-day was a depressingly familiar one on Saturday for the Reds faithful. They had watched their side labour en route to a 2-0 home reverse to Millwall, which extended the club’s winless streak on home soil to a record-equalling 11th game.

It is a run, which if it continues, is highly likely to cost Barnsley their cherished Championship status, with the club’s crippling homesickness having seen them fail to triumph at Oakwell since way back on November 4.

Head coach Jose Morais may have only been in charge at the club for just over a month, but he has already been provided with ample evidence of the Reds’ ailments when playing in front of their home support.

The fact that he is afforded the international break to try and find some solutions on the training ground to somehow remedy his side’s desperate home statistics will at least be welcomed. More especially so after a heavy-duty schedule during his opening spell in charge.

We conceded a stupid goal against an opponent fighting for something – to be in the play-offs. It was obviously difficult and we have to rethink things and hope for the next game.

Jose Morais

Morais’s problem also exasperated his predecessor, Paul Heckingbottom, for the final year of his Oakwell reign.

Having seen his impassioned pre-match rallying cry to his players to display a stronger mentality in their quest to end their terrible home run palpably fail to have the desired effect ahead of the Millwall game, Morais must find another tactic.

Trump cards in his pack are few and Morais will be praying that the club’s best chance of avoiding relegation – star turn Oli McBurnie – comes back from his first taste of senior international duty with Scotland with not just a sense of exhilaration, but no fitness or injury issues either.

Other than that, Morais could perhaps do worse than go back to the future in his bid to find an antidote to some serious homesickness – the club’s 11-match run without an Oakwell win equalling the grim sequence under Keith Hill in 2012-13 and an identical one way back in 1952-53.

The reintegration of Adam Hammill – who has not been involved at all since featuring for 57 minutes in Morais’s first game in charge on February 20 – remains one option with the Reds not exactly overwhelmed in the creative department or in terms of Championship experience either.

Another player who has been used relatively sparingly by Morais is top-scorer Tom Bradshaw and while the Wales international has not found the net this year, the fact that he scored 11 times in the first half of the season is something that surely cannot be overlooked.

A serious look at some alternatives to the 4-3-3 system which Morais has largely utilised in his time at the club is something that is also likely to devote his attention ahead of the Good Friday home game with Lee Johnson’s Bristol City.

Morais said: “The team has been (previously) working with the limitations that we know. The calendar is tight and we have had a game every three or four days and we have been working on improving the confidence in many levels.

“What we will continue to do is improve the quality of our game and improve the team in order to be more efficient in taking our chances in front of the goal, which has been very poor.

“We have to think about the players who are playing and the continuity of the work that they have do in front of goal to be more effective. This is what we are going to do in the next two weeks.”

Alongside finding a clinical edge in front of goal, the need for Barnsley to marry that with a single-minded and ruthless defensive approach is all too obvious.

On occasions this term at home, the Reds have shown rearguard resolution, with a case example being the game with Wolves in January, one of just four away matches in which the leaders and strong title favourites have failed to find the net on their league travels.

Preston’s forwards were also kept in check at Oakwell, while only a fortuitous late strike enabled second-placed Cardiff to break through Barnsley’s defence at Oakwell in the autumn.

Elsewhere, costly lapses in concentration have hurt the Reds, with examples arriving in the club’s last two home games with Millwall and Norwich.

It has been a similar situation during a shocking return of just three league wins in the club’s last 28 at Oakwell, a run stretching back to January, 2017.

On Saturday’s defensive misdemeanour which gifted Millwall an opener, a ‘childish’ concession according to Morais, the Reds head coach added: “In terms of our overall performance, I think the history of the game was one mistake we did and gave them.

“We conceded a stupid goal against an opponent fighting for something – to be in the play-offs. It was obviously difficult and we have to rethink things and hope for the next game.”

And come up with some solutions pretty fast too. Or else...