Scout File: Barnsley (A)

Credit Graham Burrell

The Imps will hope to continue their unbeaten run in South Yorkshire against an in-form Barnsley team, writes Tom Morton.

Neil Collins’ team sit fourth, unbeaten in seven games, and have a realistic shot at automatics with a game in hand over the top three. It’s the recipe for a difficult game and we can expect a high-paced and aggressive attack from a team that wants to play in possession.

That said there are some positives to anchor to. We are, of course, on a great run ourselves and, critically, have conceded very few goals in our run. By contrast, the Tykes have conceded thirteen in the same period. In the week they gave up a two-goal advantage over promotion rivals Bolton. Plus, despite only losing six games this season, five of them have been at home.

Barnsleys’ season kicked off in style with a 7-0 drubbing of Port Vale and, mostly, they haven’t looked back. They are highly consistent in the two seasons they’ve been back in the third tier. Last time out they finished fourth and lost out on a return to the championship to Sheffield Wednesday. 

Credit Graham Burrell

A big part of their League One success is tied to star striker Devante Cole. He is currently on seventeen goals for the season (having picked up fifteen in their 22/23 run). This is the last year of his contract having joined for their final Championship season, and it seems likely we’ll see Cole in the third tier again next season in some form – this is a strong level for him.

As you can imagine, Collins made few moves in the January window. However, he did bring in Josh Early from Fleetwood as a replacement for Own Dodgson, recalled early by Burnley. Other than that it’s just movement of second-string players – nine were loaned out, mostly to League Two clubs.

Barnsley lineup A 23/24

Tactically expect them to be an aggressive team that plays an attacking formation somewhere between 3-1-4-2 and 3-5-2. The Tykes play with pace and are not afraid to challenge for the ball and stay tight to players. That will be hard to play against in our current form when we sometimes feel a bit hesitant on the ball. Equally, it does play against them – Bolton’s second goal came from a penalty caused by the Barnsley defender just being too tight to his man.

Going forward they have a high press, not unlike our approach. They score a lot of goals by pinning back their opponents and putting them under pressure. Equally, they have some solid set pieces and, critically, are good at a goal-mouth scramble. They are not afraid to be persistent and fight for the ball in the box and that has resulted in several goals. 

Credit Graham Burrell

Head to head our recent form is pretty promising! Two wins and two draws since their return to the third tier. Both of our wins were away from home which is promising, including an entertaining League Trophy win in 2022. The last time out was a draw that saw Eyoma score a rare goal. Before that, we faced the Tykes a few times in cup matches in 2009 and through the 90s, but it’s right back to the 1970s before we had regular league action against them. Back then generally they came out on top, and in the 80’s they rose through the pyramid and left us behind for a good while.

Of course, there is probably a lot more riding on this game for them than for us. They need to stay in touch with the top 3 to have a chance at the automatics, whilst our playoff hopes are a bit of a pipe dream. But we are on a good run and that raises hopes for an exciting game (we are due one!). I think we’ll need to take the game to them, and with our midfield feeling light we’ll need to use our high press and their love of possession to hold them in their half. Given their willingness to fight for every ball fingers crossed we get through without any injuries.