Why Barnsley need experience and ‘nasty’ streak to come to the fore after draw with Birmingham City

AS many managers have frequently said in the past, you cannot go into a chemist and buy a bottle of experience.

Barnsley's Callum Styles (centre) celebrates opening the scoring against Birmingham City at Oakwell on Saturday. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

Mention that maxim to Markus Schopp and he will probably get the drift and nod his head.

His young Barnsley side are learning on the job as Schopp tailors the Reds’ approach.

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Last season, under his predecessor Valerien Ismael, it was based on ‘vertical football’ and getting the ball forward quickly and an incessant pressing ethic when out of possession.

TAKE THAT: Barnsley's Callum Styles scores the opener against Birmingham City at Oakwell. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

Schopp values the intensity of the press, but wants his team to be more studious with the ball.

Make-overs take time and in that regard, a total of six points from five league games heading into the first international break should not be frowned upon. It could have been more, but equally it could have been less.

Against a Birmingham side who dominated the second half with several of their experienced core of players standing tall, Barnsley got away with one.

They could not have complained if they had lost to a Blues side going in the right direction again under Lee Bowyer and far removed from the sorry crop who lost at Oakwell in March.

TOUGH DAY: Barnsley's Toby Sibbick (left) and Birmingham City's Tahith Chong battle for the ball at Oakwell on Saturday. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

A mixture of poor finishing from Scott Hogan, a couple of key saves from Brad Collins and the fact that Michal Helik – whose leadership qualities were noted by an admiring Schopp afterwards – was a wonderful bastion of defiance, ensured they did not.

But Schopp was not fooled. On another day, Barnsley would have been reflecting on a second successive home loss in a game when the inexperience at this level of some players was there to see.

At the back, Toby Sibbick – still just 22 and lacking Championship miles – had a fraught day. Liam Kitching, a player with a ferocious competitive nature, is a work in progress.

Further forward, Romal Palmer – stymied by a first-half booking – has a fair bit to go at this level. Ditto Clark Oduor, who drifted in and out of Saturday’s game.

BATTLE FOR THE BALL: Barnsley's Clarke Oduor (left) and Birmingham City's Ryan Woods clash at Oakwell. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA

On the opposing side, Blues had seniority at the back and a potent set-piece weapon with the booming long throws of ex-Reds player Marc Roberts and a class act in midfield in Ryan Woods. His nickname of ‘the Ginger Pirlo’ may be flattering, but what cannot be denied is that he can play.

Street smartness up front arrived from scorer Lukas Jutkiewicz, who seems to have been on the Championship circuit forever. Directness on the left came from Jeremie Bela, a player much closer to 30 than 20.

In mitigation, Barnsley were light and badly missing options, particularly up front in the absence of Obbi Oulare, Aaron Leya Iseka and Carlton Morris.

A thin-looking bench minus Devante Cole and Herbie Kane omitted for ‘technical reasons’ further emphasised that point.

In that regard, Saturday was a point gained for Barnsley, who sit in mid-table. For context, after five league games last season, they were winless and had a caretaker head coach in the dug-out. They also had two fewer points at the same juncture of 2019-20.

But if they are to progress, a little bit more nous to bring on some young players would help, as Schopp explained afterwards.

And maybe becoming a bit more ‘nasty’ as goalscorer Callum Styles pointedly suggested.

He said: “We need to improve and work on our nasty side to see games out and not concede silly goals. We have played some nice stuff. We’d have liked to not drop a couple of points like last week and this week. But we are happy with this point come the end of the game as they were on top.”

On a fine late summer’s day, Barnsley started out in beauteous fashion, thanks to another golden contribution from one of their young players who has quickly got up to speed with Championship life in Styles, whose first goal in front of fans at Oakwell was a stunner. Picked out by Oduor, his aim from just outside the 18-yard box was glorious and deadly.

His family were not in attendance, due to his sister having a ‘baby-shower.’ At least, he was showered with praise by his team-mates and Reds fans.

Yet slowly but surely, after a quiet opening, Birmingham grew.

Their leveller may have owed plenty to a mistake from Sibbick, but it would be disingenuous not to praise Jutkiewicz.

He gambled that the Reds player might err after Sunjic headed the ball into the area and Sibbick did just that with his procrastination letting in the striker who rammed the ball past Collins as if to say: ‘Thank you very much.’

Comfortable 5-0 victors at Luton the previous weekend – with four goals coming in the second half – Blues bossed the second period of this contest. Fortunately, for Barnsley’s sake, they were not taken to the cleaners.

Ex-Reds trialist Hogan’s angst was plain to see after planting a header wide from a brilliant Bela cross and that was compounded when he was denied in a one-on-one situation by Collins.

The Reds custodian also made a key late save to block Chuks Aneke’s close-range follow-up after Callum Brittain diverted Roberts’s throw onto the post, with the Blues substitute firing the loose ball over.