December 24, 2012 by Made In Brum
Blues travel to Oakwell on Boxing Day to take on Barnsley. With a bit of luck, Lee Clark’s men will be like a team possessed after their embarrassing 5-0 defeat at St. Andrews earlier in the season. Gabriel Sutton and Dan Harris preview the clash with the Tykes.
Hats off to those of you hard-core Bluenoses who have decided to swap the lure of a few movies, mulled wine and roasted chestnuts by a warm fire with the family on boxing day, in favour of a two and a half hour journey up to a freezing cold Oakwell. I sincerely hope that the team can give you something to cheer about and make the trip worthwhile. Here’s hoping…
A look at the squad
We’re down to the bare bones at the moment. To add to the fairly long list of injuries we’ve already had to contend with, in the past week or so, there have been injuries to top scorer Marlon King, Papa Bouba Diop, Paul Robinson and Peter Lovenkrands. Because of this, Clark was forced to field 7 teenagers against Burnley to fill in the blanks. With a skeleton squad and the games coming thick and fast now, this Christmas to new year period may prove to become a tricky one.
In terms of team selection, a few people I spoke to at the Burnley game criticized Clark for not having any strikers on the bench. In my brief defence of him, that was hardly by choice- as above, King, Akwasi Asante and Lovenkrands were injured, Lita has long returned to Swansea. A combination of injuries and the club not having the funds to sign a striker has left us with limited forward options. I’m glad he’s been able to recall Jake Jervis from Portsmouth to give us another attacker, he ought to get a place on the bench.
At the start of the game against Burnley, I did question Clark’s decision to start with Hall and Redmond on the flanks. I personally would have gone with Burke and Elliott, as Elliott had a good game the week before and I’d like to see Burke given the chance rediscover his form of last season. That said, both Hall and Redmond had good games. Redmond seemed to have improved significantly and showed a lot more of the pace and trickery that we know him for, and Hall got the assist for Davies’s opener- he’s been pretty useful from set pieces lately. I hope Clark swaps them around with Burke and Elliott for this game though, because squad rotation will be key to getting us through this Christmas to New Year fixture schedule.
The other decision I’d like to see Clark make, is to give Caldwell a break. He might be our captain, but the reality is he has vastly declined this season in terms of pace, and simply won’t be able to play week in, midweek, week out. I’d be tempted to give Pablo Ibanez a chance and see if he can perform better. If so, then there may be some mileage in giving him more of a run in the team, because our defensive record certainly needs to be changed.
A bit about Barnsley
They say familiarity breeds contempt, but I’m not sure Barnsley fans would agree with that. Since their founding in 1888, the Tykes have never once moved from their home ground Oakwell, and have been playing in the second tier for more seasons than any other club in English football.
In recent years, Barnsley were promoted via the play-offs from League one in 2006, since which a period of mediocrity has ensued. They’ve spent 5 consecutive seasons in the same position in the Championship, the highest finish being 17th and the lowest 21st– when they narrowly avoided relegation last year.
How are Barnsley doing this season?
It seems as though Barnsley fans may just settle for more of the same this time around. They currently sit inside the relegation zone, having attained just 1 win from their previous 12 matches, and recently lost to arch rivals and fellow relegation contenders Sheffield Wednesday. The timing of this match hasn’t fallen entirely in our favour though, as that 1 win came in their last match away to high-flying Millwall, so I do have a worrying feeling that they may be about to pick up some momentum.
Craig Davies is Barnsley’s top goalscorer, but almost half of his 9 goals so far this season, whisper it, came in Barnsley’s 5-0 win at St. Andrews back in September! Hopefully it won’t be a similar story for him this time, as in actual fact Davies hasn’t scored in 6 matches. Still, the Welsh striker has been a pretty good player for the Tykes’ since signing from Chesterfield, having scored 19 goals from 52 games.
I’m sure you won’t mind if I avoid going into detail about what happened when we played Barnsley earlier this season- I’ve blotted that game out. Just over 10 years ago, we won at Oakwell in what was Trevor Francis’s last ever game in charge at the club. With Blues sitting in 14thplace and without a win in 6 games, many fans were calling for Francis’s head. Goals from Marcelo, Horsefield and Paul Furlong off the bench gave us a 3-1 win, but the boards’ decision to sack the Blues manager stood. After the appointment of Steve Bruce later that season, we achieved promotion via the play-offs as many will remember, whilst unfortunately Barnsley slumped to relegation.
To be honest, I don’t have a good feeling about the game. Given the lack of strength in depth in our squad and Barnsley’s inspired late win at Millwall the week before, a point wouldn’t necessarily be a disastrous result. It may seem rather unambitious, my stance is that any hopes of producing a winning streak and clinching a play-off spot at the end of the season are incredibly slim, if not gone now. The key for us this season will be to make sure we don’t get sucked into a dreaded relegation battle, so that we’re in a better position to attract new owners, and rebuild the next year.
With Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Barnsley, Peterborough and Bristol City all starting to find their form now, if we lose this game we’ll be in some trouble and may find ourselves checking our phones for the results of the teams down the bottom more often than we’d like to be. I don’t wish to be too negative, but if you were to offer me a point before this game, I’d be quite inclined to take it- it’s about damage limitation during this difficult winter period.
By Gabriel Sutton @_thescore
Below stats compiled by @bcfcarchive
Head to Head
Blues travel to Barnsley having previously recorded 16 wins, 9 draws and 12 defeats in the 113 year history of this fixture.
Blues have a 43.24% win record when away against the Tykes.
Blues hold the overall head to head advantage winning 35 of the previous 74 encounters between the two sides. There have been 21 wins for Barnsley and 18 draws.
Blues have scored 60 goals, conceding 55 when making the trip to Barnsley.
On average, there have been 1.62 scored and 1.49 goals conceded by Blues when are away.
There have been a total of 117 goals scored by Blues. Barnsley have found the net 96 times.
There has only been two 0-0 draws between the sides with Barnsley as hosts. Blues have recorded two 5-0 victories at Oakwell. The first coming on the 14th February 1920 and the same result was repeated on the 2nd September 1995
There have been three 1-0, two 2-0 and two 5-0 wins throughout the years in this match.
The biggest margin of victory in this fixture came in the first clash of the two sides in Barnsley. The home side won 7-2 on the 14th January 1899.
The most common score line when this fixture is drawn is 1-1. This has been the result on four occasions. The most recent coming on 10th March 2009, when Martin Taylor equalised three minutes after his error had led to the Barnsley opener.
On this day
Unsurprisingly, Blues have played more matches on the 26th December than any other day of the year. There have been 33 wins, 19 draws and 32 defeats previously.
There have been 120 goals scored and 106 conceded, which is also the most goals scored and conceded compared to any other date.
Barnsley will be the 52nd different opponent for Blues on Boxing Day; there have previously been 38 away trips and 46 at home.
Blues have previously won twice, drew once and lost twice on trips to Yorkshire on the 26thpreviously.
Middlesbrough is the most re-occurring fixture on this day, with six meetings.
The biggest of the 33 previous wins on the 26th came at home to Middlesbrough in 1905. The 7-0 victory took Blues to fourth in the first division table at the time.
The same fixture marked the club’s first match at St Andrews a year to the day later although that match ended 0-0.
The last Blues side to record a home win on this day beat Middlesbrough 3-0 in 2007. A Gary McSheffrey penalty sealed the victory, following earlier goals from Forssell and a Stewart Downing own goal.
There have been ten 1-0, three 2-0, three 3-0 and one 5-0 wins on this day previously.
The highest scoring fixture on this day came when West Bromwich Albion came to St Andrews. The result that day was 3-5 to the away side as they went to second place in the first division, six points behind local rivals Wolves.