It was on December 8 that Barnsley last tasted the sensation of defeat at league level – to today’s opponents Wycombe – with angry head coach Daniel Stendel letting his players know in no uncertain terms that the manner of the setback was unacceptable.
Given events since his players have clearly taken note of those comments made in the aftermath of that 1-0 reverse in Buckinghamshire, which in many respects has represented a turning point in their season.
Barnsley boast an 11-match unbeaten run heading into today’s return against the Chairboys and the motivation of showing how far they have travelled as a side since that loss at Adams Park -–and avenging those events – is likely to be a strong one today.
Assistant head coach Dale Tonge said: “It is a game we have watched more than most in terms of how they set up against us and what worked against us in terms of their style of play.
“I would not necessarily call it a wake-up call. But in terms of how Wycombe’s game plan worked that day it probably made us focus more on ourselves than on the opposition.
“It maybe reset us a little bit. After that game we knew we needed more from ourselves and not necessarily the opposition.”
Barnsley will be without one of their main on-pitch leaders this afternoon in the shape of Kieffer Moore, but Tonge is confident that several others can – and will – step up to the plate.
Among that number is former Leeds United midfielder Alex Mowatt, who is enjoying a renaissance season following a couple of disappointing previous campaigns, which saw his career head towards a crossroads.
The Doncaster-born player, who celebrated his 24th birthday earlier this week, is re-emerging as a player of authority and substance, according to Tonge, with he and everyone connected with the club having been impressed by his turnaround this season.
Tonge said: “It was Alex’s birthday this week. He is a still a young man, but has played a lot of football, but I do think that in the group he is seen as a leader in terms of how he performs.
“Not necessarily in terms of talking, shouting and screaming, but in how he dictates play and what he does for the team. He is definitely a leader in the group and someone they look up too.”
Barnsley, on their best sequence of home form since 1968, are aiming for a sixth successive home win today, while also looking to extend their league run without a defeat at Oakwell to 20 league matches.
While loathe to make predictions, Tonge believes that it is within the Reds’ capabilities to go a full season without suffering a defeat on home soil.
He added: “One hundred per cent. We have got a very good group of footballers and they are in a very good frame of mind at the minute.
“But their feet will be firmly on the ground and the gaffer’s mentality will not let them get ahead of themselves.”