Why Michael Duff believes that adaptable Barnsley will be prepared for any element of surprise in League One final with Sheffield Wednesday

BENEATH all the hype which will surround the first all-South Yorkshire play-off final between Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday on Bank Holiday Monday, it is highly likely to be the head which decides the outcome as opposed to the heart.

Tactical nuances could well prove the difference in what is very likely to be a tight encounter resemblant of a chess match. In three previous Wembley play-off showpieces pitting White Rose sides together, just two goals have been scored.

In terms of adaptability, Duff feels that his Barnsley side are well blessed in that regard and can cater for most things.

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While Wednesday's two legged League One semi-final with Peterborough United was fluctuating, dramatic, shocking and brilliant all rolled into one, Barnsley's tie with Bolton Wanderers was a tight affair based on small details.

Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

It was one for the coaching purists who are obsessed with technical and tactical aspects as opposed to pure theatre and entertainment.

For Barnsley head coach Duff, it was useful preparation for the game that now matters.

He said: "We can play different ways.

"Teams can try and 'beat us up' and we don't go under. Teams can try and pass us off the park and we don't go under.

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"Teams try and out-press us and we don't go under. That's the way I want my teams. I don't want to play the same way.

"Sometimes, we play out and sometimes we don't. I'd rather have three or four strings to your bow than play the same way all the time.

"With the game plan (last Friday), we tweaked a couple of things from the first game. I thought we were good in the first game, but they tweaked a few things in the second half. We basically had two presses and they (our players) knew them both.

"When they did certain things, they executed the game plans perfectly."

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Barnsley's contributions across the board in 2022-23 have also served them well in a transformative campaign. Among the group, there is trust with Duff witnessing that in Friday's tense second leg.

He continued: "When Bolton were on top for that 10 to 15 minutes in the second half, it was 'do we change?' and it was 'no, trust them to see it out and do what they have to do and suffer at times. As when you play a possession based team, you have to suffer sometimes.

"We have been hard to beat all season. There was one really good moment. Bobby (Thomas) made a brilliant block after something that has been worked on a lot. There's real trust which takes time.

"Certain people do certain jobs. It was probably the most pleasing part of the night for me. It probably goes under the radar because people don't see it.

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"I said to the players at half-time that you are 45 minutes from playing at Wembley in front of 80, to 90,000 people. I'd imagine it will be pretty much full. It does not come around very often, don't let it pass you by. Stick together.

"Trust each other, show courage, respect and the opposition and discipline, they did all those things."