After a Saturday afternoon where Millwall were knocked out of the play off race and leaving only Swansea to catch that last play off place; barring a disaster Forest should just about be safe in confirming a top 6 place even if we were to lose at Oakwell on Sunday. A point will see us mathematically safe in terms of being caught and so you’d expect Sabri to put out a relatively strong side to keep any doubts at bay. Barnsley of course still have a slim chance of staying up and whilst that remains; you’d expect them to fight tooth and nail until it’s put beyond doubt. I was massively impressed with Barnsley at The City Ground earlier in the season in a game they were very unfortunate in not to come away with at least a point. If Barnsley are to be relegated, midfielder Alex Mowatt is the type of combatitive midfielder we could do with recruiting as Ben Watson approaches his final years on the pitch.
With Barnsley having to come out and attack to fight relegation, this shoud hopefully suit our counter attacking game and fingers crossed we’ll have enough to keep a clean sheet and score a goal on the break in keeping with our consitency on the road this season. It’s not a time to relax; it’s a golden opportunity to get the job done and get some extra rest in the legs of players we need to be in tip top condition; if we are to make the play-offs.
I caught up with Tykes fan Ashley for his thoughts on Sunday’s penultimate Championship game at Oakwell.
How have you found the restart behind closed doors as a football purist and how would you summarise Barnsley’s post lockdown performance so far?
My overall thoughts with lockdown football is that obviously it’s been really weird watching our teams play at home and not being able to be there. However, I’d rather football behind closed doors than no football at all as it’s giving me something to do at home! In terms of our players, I think it’s sort of benefitted our young team. With no fans on their backs it’s easier for them to sort of concentrate on their football rather than be worrying about the fans giving a load of rubbish to them. Obviously, it’s a disadvantage because there’s no fans to give them that extra push in the last 5 to 10 minutes of the game but I think it’s certainly helped our defence and players. As an example, Mads Andersen; the fans were on his back a lot and his confidence was really low. Without this pressure, he’s come back and he’s looked a totally different player.
In terms of our restart, I think we have come back from the break quite fit and up for the task again. We haven’t had any injury concerns to deal with which is brilliant. The only injuries we’ve had to worry about is that of young player Romal Palmer; who shone for us in his first professional debut at QPR and Elliot Simoes who was playing really well as well. That one has been a massive blow for us as his ability on the ball is class and he is capable of getting away from opposing players quite easily. Simoes also got our only goal at QPR.
Generally our performances since we have come back have been ok. Players have come back into our team like Mads Andersen and we have sorted out our defence quite a lot. We look pretty good at the back since we have come back but the goals seem to have dried up. We are creating a lot of chances but we just aren’t scoring and as shown at Leeds on Thursday, we were punished by not taking our chances. The goal came from a mistake from highly experienced defender Michael Sollbauer and that was a rarirty. There have also been some question marks over our team selection in previous games as to why certain players are and others aren’t starting; it’s been a mixed start in terms of results and performances.
In terms of the wider season, how have Barnsley faired under Gerhard Struber? Whenever I’ve seen Barnsley this season I’ve been quite impressed with the football you’ve played but know only too well in years gone by that’s not always enough in Championship.
in terms of how we have been since Gerhard Struber came in, I think he has really sorted our defence out as it was a major concern at the start of this season. We signed Michael Sollbauer in January and he has given us the experience at the back that we have been crying out for. Struber has got us playing some good football at times; creating a lot but just not putting the ball in the back of the net; it’s costing us massively. On the whole, Struber has done well since has has come in and if he’d been here for the season, I reckon we’d have been about 13th under his time so far. Although there’s been question marks over team selections and timings of his substitutions, I think we need to really try and keep him for next season and let him build around the players he wants to keep.
What should Forest fans expect from this Barnsley outfit on Sunday in terms of style of play and strengths? Which players would you single out for Forest fans to keep an eye on in the Barnsley side?
What have been your biggest problems this season (areas of weakness)?
Our biggest areas of concern and weakness was certainly at the back. We were a shambles at the back under Stendel and simply just not good enough. Like I say, Struber has sorted that now but we can’t hit the back of the net which will win us games.
Barnsley have picked up some decent results since coming back from lockdown but not enough wins to pull away from the relegation places. Can you pull off the impossible in the last couple of games ?
Results since we have come back have been better but there have been games that we have needed to win (like Stoke away)and we just didn’t turn up. At Luton, we just couldn’t score untill we got the 84th minute leveller. Mathematically, we can still stay up but I’m going to be honest; I think it’s a very very big ask especially our last two games being Forest and Brentford. For now, all I ask for, is our lads to fight and show passion like they did at Leeds and what will he will be. We really need to be hitting the net in these last two games otherwise that’ll be it in terms of Championship football.
If there are any Forest players that you could have at Barnsley – past and present – who would it be and why?
I’m not too sure on that one but currently I’d have Matty Cash I think he’s a brilliant player a big asset in your team .
What are your hopes and predictions for Sunday’s game?
I’m going to go with my heart and say a 2-1 Reds win but we need to really turn up against a very good side that’s competing in the play-off places.
Many thanks to Ashley for his thoughts. Very much appreciated here at Munich and Madrid.