Barnsley v Shrewsbury Town: Salop's fortunes have turned with some luck
Shrewsbury Town’s recent upturn in form and surge to safety began in the 87th minute against Wycombe, five games ago.
Sam Ricketts’ men were staring down a third straight defeat against three relegation rivals. They were flirting perilously close with the bottom four, writes Lewis Cox.
The atmosphere inside Montgomery Waters Meadow was toxic. There was anger directed at Ricketts for his side’s performance and his team selections.
All of that eased in one looping header from Omar Beckles, which nestled into the far corner. Then, in added time, matters improved further as Ollie Norburn converted from 12 yards after Shaun Whalley had been chopped down.
Things could have been different had Shrewsbury lost that day.
Town have lost just once in five since, and won credit after the defeat for playing well.
Now they go to second-placed Barnsley tomorrow with the pressure off having reached 50 points.
When Ricketts was asked if the late show against Wycombe was the catalyst, the boss pointed to a change in fortunes.
“If I’m brutally honest we weren’t good against Wycombe but that’s the one game we had a bit of luck to go our way and turn a game around,” he said.
“We’ve drawn and lost games where we certainly didn’t deserve to.
“I’m not saying we deserved to win that game, it’s the first time it’s swung round and it’s us winning the game.”
But since then the improvement has been clear. Individually, as a collective, tactically, consistency.
“It’s probably more from effort and determination, the players never gave up, that’s why we got back in the game,” Ricketts added of his players’ efforts in that decisive comeback last month. “Wycombe didn’t turn round and score two own goals, we had to work for them, but we had a bit of luck. That’s the character and determination coming through in the squad to turn it around.
“Portsmouth was a very good performance having got beat. We spoke about it and we had to back it up with points, that’s what we’ve done.”
Given Barnsley’s impressive form and their tense promotion fight with Sunderland, Portsmouth and Charlton, it might be a good time for Ricketts’ men to visit the Tykes.
Daniel Stendel’s men were unbeaten in 20 league games before losing at Burton two weeks ago.
The hosts, unbeaten at home this season, hit the national press this week as their German boss was allegedly on the receiving end of an angry Joey Barton after last weekend’s League One victory over Fleetwood.
Not ideal background noise for the pre-match build-up, an occasion where all the pressure and expectancy is on the home side, with visitors Town in good spirits.
It would be a stretch to tip Ricketts’ men to be the side to end Barnsley’s 25-match unbeaten home run, but there is reason to believe Salop can put the cat among the pigeons at Oakwell. They would be the first side to do the double over Barnsley this season after their 3-1 home win in October.
The South Yorkshire side have conceded twice in each of their last two home games – to Coventry and Fleetwood. It proves they are there to be got at.
Anything taken tomorrow will help spirits for the big home game with Oxford on Monday.
Subs: Sears, Sadler, Laurent, Gilliead, Okenabirhie, Payne, Charles-Cook (gk).
Barnsley: Davies; J Williams, Jackson, Pinnock, Pinillos; Brown, Mowatt, McGeehan, Thiam; Bahre; Woodrow.
The opposition: Tykes feel ‘invincible’ in front of their own fans
Barnsley are in with a chance of automatic promotion after relegation from the Championship last term.
Daniel Stendel’s men are one of two League One teams (with Luton) still unbeaten at home.
We spoke with Barnsley Chronicle sports editor Doug O’Kane to get the lowdown on the Tykes’ impressive campaign.
With four games to go Barnsley occupy one of the top two places. Was the aim always to go straight back up?
Yes. As soon as they went down, they were targeting a return to the Championship within one season.
They kept faith in pretty much the same squad that took them down and employed a head coach in Daniel Stendel who they though would get the best out of that squad.
Are the players and staff confident they can win the battle for automatic promotion against Sunderland, Portsmouth and Charlton?
They are targeting four wins from their last four games and, if they do that, there is a belief that they will go up.
Saturday’s win over Fleetwood was a massive victory combined with Sunderland’s defeat which saw Barnsley go back into second.
They probably have the easiest run-in of the teams from second to fifth.
How have the fans viewed the season as a whole?
It’s been really successful.
They have equalled the club record points tally of 82 and went unbeaten for 20 games at one point.
Some of the football they have played and goals they have scored have been exceptional, both individually and as a team.
The fans have generally got behind Daniel Stendel and these players.
The home form is an obvious factor. What’s the secret?
They seem to have an aura of invincibility at home and never really feel like they are going to lose.
It has just snowballed since last March when they last lost and there is a real momentum going into every game. It’s mainly based on the best defensive record in the division, and they have very dangerous players in attack too.
How is the injury and availability situation?
Liam Lindsay missed Saturday’s game through injury and was replaced at centre-back by Adam Jackson.
Top scorer Kieffer Moore and midfielder Kenny Dougall are both out for the season.
Pie and a pint:
The Barnsley East Dene Working Men’s Club on nearby Doncaster Road admits away fans and you can leave cars there for £2. An Oakwell pie costs £3.20.
Jordan Clark’s 90th-minute winner silenced Oakwell in September 2015. Mark Ellis opened the scoring early on but Sam Winnall levelled.
The young defender has been superb since joining. Will want to impress on the big stage against one of the league’s best.
The 24-year-old has three goals in three games and 17 for the season, one fewer than the injured Kieffer Moore.
Wingers Mamadou Thiam and Jacob Brown both had excellent games against Fleetwood while central midfielders Cameron McGeehan and Alex Mowatt have both been very consistent and effective.