Magic formula continues to desert Robins. (©PAphotos)
by Paul Hoggins
, read by 211 people.
Looking at the four fixtures Barnsley had going into the Christmas and New Year period - Burnley (Home), Swansea City (Away), Nottingham Forest (Away) and Coventry City (Home) - the Championship table showed that the Tykes were below all these teams and it therefore looked like a difficult run of games.
However, before the enforced break due to the weather, the Reds had taken seven points out of nine in their last three games, with three clean sheets, so fans had cause for optimism despite the League table.
Added to this, Burnley came to Oakwell on Boxing Day not having won on their travels this season and 79 years since their last victory at the ground. All seemed to be going the Tykes way when a Goran Lovre through ball sent Adam Hammill clear on the Burnley goal. Hammill’s shot was initially saved by Clarets keeper Lee Grant, but Barnsley’s leading scorer made no mistake with the rebound to send the Tykes in at half-time with the a deserved 1-0 lead.
Burnley came out stronger in the second half and scored two in four minutes to turn the game on its head. On fifty minutes Swedish Under-21 international Guidetti was given too much room in the Barnsley box and produced a fine header into the bottom left-hand corner to bring the visitors level. Just four minutes later and again poor marking in the Reds defence left Andre Bikey unchallenged to head in Ross Wallace’s corner and give Burnley the lead.
In truth Barnsley never really threatened to get an equaliser and a determined rearguard action from the visitors meant Barnsley lost at home for the first time on Boxing Day since 2002 and Burnley completed a League double over the Reds having won 3-0 at Turf Moor earlier in the season.
Two days later, Mark Robins took his team to South Wales. Promotion chasing Swansea came into the game on the back of two defeats, the second of which had been a 4-0 Boxing Day hammering at Championship leaders QPR. The Tykes last two away outings in November at Ipswich and Preston had brought six points.
However, the Tykes returned to their away form of earlier in the season and slumped to a 1-0 defeat through loan signing Jermaine Easter's first goal for the Swans in the first half. It left Mark Robins unhappy with his team, describing them as "second-best" on the day.
So where does this leave the Tykes? As Barnsley ended 2009 they had just beaten Middlesbrough 2-1 at Oakwell. That left the Reds in 15th place having played 22 games and accumulating 30 points. They were seven points from the play-off places and nine away from the relegation spots. In their remaining 24 games Barnsley gained a poor return of just 24 points, although were never really in any danger of relegation.
With 2010 at an end, the Tykes have a similar points return as this time last year, sat in 15th place with 29 points from 22 games. This year so far the division appears tighter, as the Tykes are just five points away from the play-off spots and six from the relegation places. Mark Robins will know that a strong and consistent second half of the season and Barnsley could make a charge for promotion. Equally, a bad run would see the team dragged into the relegation dog-fight.
Mark Robins has struggled all season with the Jekyll and Hyde nature of his team, which has the Oakwell faithful wondering as to which team will turn up each week. Barnsley have turned in some strong home performances so far this season including the memorable home victory over Leeds United and also away at Ipswich Town.
But for every one of those, there has been a string of insipid results on the road and some at Oakwell as summed up by the two games over Christmas.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.