In his development as a coach, Barnsley’s 33-year-old manager Lee Johnson is trying to determine how much heed he should pay to the numbers.
He is happy to pore over the statistics after a game, noting that in the recent fixture at Colchester, for instance, Barnsley completed 460 passes in the first half, double how many they had been executing throughout the season.
That they lost the game is, at the end of the day, the only fact that matters. But as he prepares his side for tonight’s trip to relegation-threatened Notts County, Johnson said: “As a young coach, it’s something I’m taking a real interest in, the balance between statistics and style.
“The biggest statistician I ever saw was John Beck. Everything was based on the stats and he was famous for that long ball, which was quite successful.
“But it’s a fine line. You don’t want to be unattractive, but you have to impose your strengths and, in certain games, your strengths might be your mobility or dynamism and your quality ball players.
“But on Saturday (against Chesterfield) our strength was our set-pieces, not only our delivery, but the guys we had in there. I’m quite content as far as what I’m trying to achieve and I will experiment with what I’m trying because I am a young coach.”
Johnson’s ideal style would be a neat, passing game, but with four games remaining the most dominant statistic suggests Barnsley are in win-or-bust mode.
They trail the top six by seven points with just 12 left to play for, and have four teams ahead of them – two of which they have to play in the run-in (Bradford and Rochdale) – also battling for the play-offs.
The visit of Peterborough, who are locked with Barnsley on 57 points, on Saturday means that they can take points to the detriment of their rivals in their three remaining games after tonight.
But the simple statistic is this, lose tonight – or just once in the last four – and Barnsley’s season is over.
Last six games: Notts County LLDDDD, Barnsley DDDLLD.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire).
Last time: Notts County 1 Barnsley 1; January 31, 2004; Division Two.