Since the start of October, Barnsley have spent the last 151 days and 23 gameweeks in the Championship’s relegation zone, but can the Tykes pull off the unlikeliest of escapes?
A 3-2 victory versus play-off chasing Middlesbrough last weekend marked a second successive league win for Poya Asbaghi’s side – a feat that the club had not achieved before all season.
Amine Bassi’s double and a strike from Mads Andersen were enough to secure a slender victory, lifting Barnsley to within six points of safety with a game in hand on 21st-placed Reading.
The win means the Tykes have managed to revive their once fading hopes of avoiding relegation by securing three victories in their last four league games.
Ahead of the weekend’s crucial crunch match away to relegation rivals Derby County, we caught up with Carlo from The Reds Report.
“Granted, we’ve caught our opposition on an off day but you still need to beat what’s in front of you for three points,” he told FansBet.
“A huge part of this mini-revival is due to the two loan signings of Amine Bassi and Domingos Quina.
“As well as that, it seems the manager has finally found a formation that works, not to mention resolving our midfield dilemma with young academy graduate Matty Wolf.”
Former Sweden under-21 boss Asbaghi had failed to register a win in his previous 12 league games in charge having joined the club as Markus Schopp’s successor, who was sacked at the beginning of November
But after beating Queens Park Rangers, Barnsley suffered a narrow defeat at the hands of Coventry City, before getting back on track in their meeting with Hull City.
Asbaghi’s outfit then backed up their win over the Tigers by sealing all three points in Saturday’s meeting with Middlesbrough.
And with fellow relegation strugglers well within their sights, it appears that Tykes fans now have a newfound sense of belief going into the final quarter of the campaign.
“There’s no doubt he’s learned his trade and did well in Sweden,” explains The Reds Report‘s Carlo.
“The awful start to his time at Barnsley seemed to last forever, but now there is some hope.
“I’m still unsure if there are higher powers interfering with selection or it just took him a long time to get it right.
“We’ll have to give him until the end of the season and decide then I suppose.”
All looked good for Barnsley going into the start of the campaign having just missed-out on a place at Wembley last season after defeat to Swansea in the Championship play-offs.
However, the Tykes – without popular boss Valerien Ismael and the instrumental captain Alex Mowatt who both departed for West Brom in the summer – have struggled to build upon last season’s progress.
The unknown Markus Schopp was handed the reigns at Oakwell, but a run of one win from their opening 15 league outings quickly saw his tenure turn sour.
Seven straight defeats left Barnsley 23rd in the Championship and meant Schopp was soon relieved of his duties.
“A lot of factors contributed to last season’s overachievement,” Carlo notes.
“Being allowed to use five substitutes each week, no fans in the stadium to add pressure and having Ismael in charge at the start all made a difference.
“I always thought we would be able to follow on from last season with a solid mid-table finish and establish ourselves as a Championship club rather than a League One and Championship yoyo club.
“Bearing in mind we still have to play Derby, Peterborough and Reading, all is not lost yet, but we would need to be in touching distance of the rest by the next international break – it is doable but still a huge ask.”
Barnsley fans are no strangers to late-season relegation fears, having been in a similar position just two years ago.
An injury-time winner at Brentford was required to survive relegation from the Championship – a result which consigned the Bees to a place in the play-offs.
So what will need to change should his club do the unthinkable and complete of one of the greatest of escapes in second tier history?
“It’s more about the expectations of the board,” says Carlo.
“The board felt that that high-intensity style did not win over any other clubs as there were no solid bids for any players.
“It took a while to find that style as for many months we played without identity, style or passion.
“Things seem to be turning around with three wins in four and it’s clear to see that we have enough quality but the performances have been shocking and come January we looked like a side without unity, confidence and belief.
“That was until the arrival of Quina and the Moroccan Messi, so keeping them fit will be key.”
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