Huddersfield Town v Barnsley - Valerien Ismael urges Tykes not to ‘destroy’ their season

Barnsley had a – hopefully metaphorical – “quick whip from the belt” at the weekend according to Carlton Morris and now it is “back to the task in hand.” A Huddersfield Town squad creaking with injuries should brace itself for an intense evening.

Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael.

Having worked under Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, Carlos Corberan has Huddersfield playing “murderball” in training, with coaches crowding the pitch screaming instructions and the ball only allowed out for nanoseconds. It should be good preparation for facing Barnsley in the Championship.

The Reds’ direct intensity has taken them into the play-off positions whilst Corberan’s more cultured approach has fought a fourth successive relegation battle for the Terriers. At least their 2-0 win at Nottingham Forest hints at a happy ending.

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Barnsley, by contrast, lost 2-0 at Coventry City on Sunday. It was the second game running manager Valerien Ismael felt they were sloppy in the first half, and this time they did not get away with it.

Carlos Corberan. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Not damaging enough to take them out of the top six, not late enough that it cannot be rectified, it actually might help, sharpening minds and the intensity Morris is fundamental to.

“Against Middlesbrough we won the game in the second half but Coventry for sure, if you stay that way, you will have regrets,” says Ismael. “If you choose the other way, the way we’ve played so far, we will have much joy.

“We have four games left and it’s all about raising the performance and finding the focus from the first minute. Eighty per cent is not enough but if we give everything, we will have the reward.

“I have to show understanding of a young team but push them more, to force the message that we are near (to the goal of the play-offs), we have made some incredible performances and we don’t want to destroy anything without a fight.

“The guys will learn from the Coventry game and I am sure they will produce another (good) performance against Huddersfield.”

Eight-goal Daryl Dike has hogged headlines since joining in mid-season, but signing Morris was also important in keeping the foot down. Even whilst managing a groin injury which has restricted him to three starts, he has scored six goals, all but the first as a substitute.

If Ismael is unhappy with the selfishness of those looking to form a breakaway European league – against the essence of football, he believes – Morris is far more in tune with his thinking “It’s been going quite well coming off the bench,” he says. “(Ismael) and myself put the team first and if that’s working, that’s what we’re going to do.

“It’s something you can accept or be a bit childish, moan about it and throw your arms up in the air. That’s not my character. There’s going to be some leggy lads at times so we need that impact from the bench. If you leave it all out there there’s only so much you can give so you need people who can take the baton.

“It’s physically demanding but anything worth going for in life usually is hard.”

They will make it tough for a Huddersfield team missing Alex Vallejo and Fraizer Campbell for the next fortnight and Pipa this evening. Yaya Sanogo is a doubt and Harry Toffolo and Isaac Mbenza have to be carefully managed, as does Josh Koroma’s return from a hamstring injury.

Corberan may try to play very differently to Ismael but as he has shown by being more pragmatic lately, he is no football snob. The idea that in life only talent and effort, not background and wealth, should matter is why he opposes a ring-fenced rebel league, and why he admires Barnsley.

“The key for any team is to find a way to compete,” he argues. “Barnsley have been very competitive this season. They are not a big name in this competition but they have a lot of qualities.”

Ismael has rightly taken huge credit for the job he has done at Oakwell, but Corberan’s admiration pre-dates him.

“When Leeds played Barnsley in one of the last matches of last season it was one of the more demanding games we faced because they tried to play out from the back and be very aggressive in the press,” he recalls.

“Before they were playing more of a 3-4-1-2, now it is more of a 3-4-3 without wingers, with three strikers in the middle of the pitch. They are more direct, using more set pieces. The manager has done a fantastic job.”

If Huddersfield, three-times English champions in the 1920s, are a reminder no team earns special status through their history, this season’s Barnsley show why unheralded clubs should always have the right to dream.

“Our fans can dream but my guys have to keep both feet on the floor,” says Ismael. “We’ve put ourselves in a brilliant position, it’s just about finishing the job.”

Last six games: Huddersfield Town WLDLDD; Barnsley LWWDLW

Referee: D Webb (County Durham)

Last time: Huddersfield Town 2 Barnsley 1, October 26, 2019, Championship.

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