Written by Ian Hope:
It doesn’t seem that long ago that last season ended in a drunken haze as Daniel Stendel and his players blew the froth off several beers in celebration of winning automatic promotion to the Championship.
Here we are, back at Oakwell in the August heat after a flurry of in-comings and outgoings, not all well received by the supporters. Out have gone three of the back five who kept Barnsley watertight in League One. Stalwart and captain Adam Davies joined Stoke City along with Liam Lindsay. The hardest outgoing transfer to take was Ethan Pinnock`s move to Brentford. A player who many believe can one day grace the Premier League. All summer there have been rumours that striker Kieffer Moore would leave Oakwell and now it finally appears so despite being given a squad number on Friday. A £4m move over the pennines to Wigan looks on the cards.
Despite all that negativity, there have been some positive signings with Luke Thomas, Conor Chaplin and Mallik WIlks all coming in. The only signing aged over 25 years old is goalkeeper Samuel Radlinger at 26. In fact ten players were signed by Barnsley over the summer. Supporters can expect a youthful and energetic squad this season that will continue the pressing style everyone has come accustomed to under Stendel.
Back to present day and tough opening fixtures against promotion hopefuls, Fulham and neighbours Sheffield Wednesday show the task in hand for the Tykes this season. Upcoming home games against fellow promotion sides Charlton and Luton are must win games. Anything from Fulham is a bonus.
Fulham rolled into town with a premier league quality squad with ex-red Mawson, Cairney, Mitrovic and Knockaert all on the team sheet. If the Londoners thought it would be a stroll in the park, think again.
Daniel Stendel`s side were full of energy, pressing, chasing forcing errors and running all over Fulham especially in midfield during a fantastic first half. Cameron McGeehan and Mike Bahre covered every blade of grass, debutantes Luke Thomas and Mallik Wilks were flying down both wings.
In a first half where goalkeeper, Radlinger barely had to break sweat Barnsley were creating chances aplenty on the counter. As Thomas bore down on the Fulham goal with most of Oakwell screaming for him to pass to others in red who were unmarked, Thomas drove home what would ultimately be the winner sending the home fans into delirium with one fan throwing his pie onto the pitch in euphoria!
As the half progressed the hosts missed two guilt-edged chances to ram home their dominance. The excellent Mike Bahre slotted chances wide when it looked from the East Stand that he had netted. Fulham manager Scott Parker had some thinking to do at halftime. His midfield were being over run, striker Mitrovic was being marshalled by Barnsley`s new centre half partnership of Diaby and Andersen and Fulham were lucky they went into the dressing room only one goal down.
Could Barnsley keep this momentum up in the second half? Would they wilt in the August heat? Would Parker change things? All these thoughts went through reds fans minds at half time.
As expected, the visitors managed to get on the ball more in midfield and dictate play. As wonderful as Barnsley were going forward in the first half, now we were going to see how the new defence would stand up to a real test. Stand up they did.
Diaby and the sponsors man of the match, Andersen were rocks at the back heading and clearing everything Fulham threw at the hosts. Andersen threw himself into goal line clearances, each time the defence cleared the danger he was like a leader punching the air and slapping his teammates on their backs. When Fulham got past the back line, Radlinger stood his ground and tipped one over from substitute Knockaert.
Praise should go to Sibbick who defended stoutly and was keen to get up and down the wing all day. Cavare looked settled on the left standing up to Cavaleiro and then Knockaert.
In the end, Barnsley managed the clock well with substitutions and playing on the counter attack. You could go through the whole Barnsley side and pick each one out for specific praise. Thomas deserved his standing ovation when substituted as did Wilks.
Crucially each player gave everything to the cause, emptying their tanks for the victory. Urged on by a loud and supportive crowd, Barnsley got over the line with ease without too many scares during the four minutes of injury time.
There is no doubt that Fulham will ultimately be pushing for an automatic return to the premier league. Today they met their match in Barnsley who out fought and out thought them all over the pitch. Stendel has built a youthful and energetic side, one which will have to learn quickly in the Championship. If they keep up that level of effort and pressing style of play, they will win many matches and admirers for the way they go about playing football.