The Thursday Preview: Barnsley Vs Sheffield United
Although I don’t live in Yorkshire, I’ve little doubt as to which clubs the newspapers of the white rose county will be prone to concentrate on and hence, can guess at the frustration this will bring for fans of Barnsley, notwithstanding their access to the brilliant On the Ponty End podcasts.
So, it’s with a disclaimer that I’ll kick off the third to last preview before Christmas. The bulk of what you’ll hopefully read below will be devoted to Sheffield United, because we cannot ignore that club’s parlous position a moment longer.
When Kevin Blackwell exited Bramall Lane just a hundred and eighty league minutes into the season in August, some saw his departure as an inevitable one. But a glance back at their opponents in those first two games is now pregnant with the airs of hindsight. For a 1-1 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium and a home defeat against a rampant QPR side eager to lay down a marker doesn’t look half as much to worry about now.
Enter Gary Speed along with speculation from Soccer AM/MW and others that this might help Blades shed their reputation as musclebound hulks lacking finesse. The result, according to esteemed bloggers The Blades Online: zero advancement in results; zero advancement in technical merit.
United are saddled with an underperforming strike force made up of quintessential Championship players like Richard Cresswell and Darius Henderson, last season’s one man spendathon of a buy, Ched Evans and a languid substitute procured from this weekend’s opponents in Daniel Bogdanović. Midfield schemers Dean Yeates and Andy Reid have talent but must make for the most corpulent partnership of any league club and Nyron Nosworthy and Frenchman Jean Calvé have been prone to error amid the rearguard.
“Complete depression and disinterest” among the faithful saw the attendance for the home loss to Ipswich plunge 9,000 units from their last meeting at Bramall Lane, and a recently announced debt of £18.6 million, the cessation of parachute payments and the impending departure of Chairman Kevin McCabe make for an equally gloomy off-field picture. A 3-0 defeat at Ashton Gate in the Blades’ last fixture has evoked memories of other disasters including an unearthly 4-0 battering at home to Scunthorpe.
So, despite a topsy turvy season that currently lies on a mid table knife edge, the Tykes will be waiting to pounce. 26 points constitutes a good return thus far and a memorable wins over Leeds (5-2), Nottingham Forest (3-1) and an in form Pompey (1-0) have provided cheer even if a goal difference of minus 5 is a worry: Barnsley sometimes don’t bother to show up.
But possibly their best creative options in years point to a home win. Adam Hammill, no longer the hobo after a sequence of loan spells, has been unplayable at times and ex-Lokomotiv Moscow man Garry O’Connor was a shrewd loan signing from Birmingham City, scoring in the club’s away outings at Preston and Ipswich. I’m therefore taking Barnsley to triumph; quite possibly by a lot.