Sheffield Wednesday will be looking to continue their fine start to the League One season as they host Barnsley on Saturday.
Following an uninspired 3-1 defeat at Bradford in the Papa John’s Trophy on Wednesday night, The Owls will be hoping to bounce back at the expense of their South Yorkshire rivals.
The weekend’s visitors have made a steady opening to their League One return after relegation from the Championship last season, claiming two wins, three losses and a draw from their first six. Most recently, the Reds stole a point at Portman Road in their 2-2 draw with early pace-setters Ipswich Town last weekend, before a humbling 3-0 defeat at the hands of Lincoln in the EFL Trophy midweek.
Following a disastrous outing last term, finishing bottom of the second division, Barnsley have enjoyed a summer of change, with nine departures and eight newcomers on the pitch as well as a swap in dugout as the reputable Michael Duff joined from Cheltenham. The new Oakwell boss performed a miracle of a job at his previous club, guiding The Robins away from a League Two relegation battle and into the third tier with the 2020/21 League Two title. Duff’s Cheltenham side then relished life in League One, surviving comfortably whilst on a shoestring budget last year.
The man in charge has brought a freshness to the Barnsley squad with young defenders Robbie Cundy and Connor McCarthy coming in along with hot prospect Luca Connell in the midfield. Left wing-back Nicky Cadden signed on a free from Forest green Rovers where he won a League Two winners medal last year, contributing 6 goals and 13 assists as a key figure in that impressive team at The New Lawn. Youngsters Slobodian Tedic and Josh Martin come on loans from Manchester City and Norwich respectively; Tedic previously a Serbia under 21s striker whilst Martin, a left winger, joined this week following a decent loan spell at Doncaster Rovers last term.
Enigmatic striker James Norwood completed a move to Oakwell whilst seen by many as a very ‘unbarnsley’ like signing as the club usually opt for younger players with high sell on values. Injuries and various ‘Twitter incidents’ meant that Norwood’s time with his last club, Ipswich, will ultimately go down as a failure having arrived with an exciting reputation and huge potential. However, the forward’s goal scoring record at this level is not one to be sniffed at and could easily become a lethal weapon in the Barnsley barracks, if operated expertly.
Along with the changes, the Reds did lose some of their most prized possessions in forwards Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow who both joined Luton Town. The pair had real goal-scoring prowess in the Championship and the void they leave upfront will take some filling. Two more names that will be missed are those of right-sided Callum Brittain and midfielder Romal Palmer who both impressed in Barnsley’s 2020/21 playoff season before things went South.
At the time of writing the Reds are still in hold of a few more of their big players over the last few years. Mads Andersen has become somewhat of a rock in Yorkshire and has been a dependable defender for the Tykes since joining from the Danish league. Similarly, goalkeeper Brad Collins was a key part of their 2020/21 team which saw some success in the second division, with the Barnsley number 1 particularly reliable playing the ‘sweeper keeper’ role which was of paramount importance to that team’s style. Speaking of style, Duff still has the brilliance of Callum (Styles) at his disposal. The ‘Bury Baggio’ who now struts his stuff on the international stage for Hungary is handy in a number of positions, often seen on the left and could be amongst the most illustrious names at this level come the end of the season.
To the paper-reading eye Barnsley are a funny team. They found themselves on both ends of a 3-0 score within the same week beating Bristol Rovers but losing to Wycombe, they matched the league-leaders and then suffered by that three-goal scoreline again in the Papa John’s against Lincoln. So what’s it to become Saturday? One thing is for sure and it’s that if the Reds are to turn up for any fixture this season, their supporters will be begging for it to be this one.
As the saying goes, anything can happen in a Derby. They also say that form goes ‘out the window’ for Derby games but Darren Moore will certainly be hoping that isn’t the case after his side spanked Forest green last week. Bannan back to his best, Windass racking up the numbers, Gregory off the mark, LP on a goal spree whilst Mallik Wilks and Alex Mighten will only stoke the fire.
All roads seem to lead to an obvious winner, but something tells me that this one isn’t going to be as straight-forward as Saturday though. This is football and this is League One and most important of all this is Sheffield Wednesday. Anything can happen and it feels almost too tough to predict. The key word there being ‘almost’; 2-1 Wednesday…