Last season, at the behest of my wife Donna, I returned to Oakwell to watch Barnsley FC once more. I had to make do with a half-season ticket but Donna reasoned it was better for me to have a break from being a carer and that watching 22 men running around in their shorts, kicking a ball up and down a football pitch was the sort of entertainment I needed. I’m still not certain what she meant by that!
Anyway, this season I have a season ticket as the Reds returned to the Championship after a one season absence, led by the brilliant but sometimes eccentric Daniel Stendel. I will be aiming to attend all home games – hospital appointments and caring commitments permitting of course – and will share some of my thoughts as the Tykes lace up their boots for what will be a tough season in a very difficult league.
Saturday 3 August 2019
Barnsley Vs Fulham
Pre-Match Mood: Tentative >>>>>>>>>>
We began the season at sunny Oakwell, which was the good news. The bad news was our opening opponents were Fulham. The Cottagers had just come down from the Premiership having endured a torrid season there. This was surprising to me as when they were promoted during the 2016/17 season they looked a damn good side and I assumed they would fare well in the Premiership. They began the new season as one of the favourites for promotion along with Leeds and Cardiff. Blimey, this is a tough league!
Anyway, pre-match speculation over an obligatory beer was that Fulham would be a tough prospect for us. While the bookies had them down as one of the promotion favourites they had placed Barnsley 24th out of 24 teams in many people’s eyes. The Championship is a huge step up from League One. Back there, we were always favourites to win at Oakwell and teams were happy to come away with a point. Here, teams would come expecting to take all three points off of us and I knew Fulham would be thinking the same.
A busy summer window meant we had lost a few players such as Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock, but we had brought plenty of new players in, some we had never heard of, but the motto is we trust in Stendel. So it was a new league, a new team and a new challenge. At the start of the game I would have been happy to take a draw from the Cottagers.
The Game Itself
Suffice to say, the performance from Barnsley on the opening day was superb. We quickly let Fulham know that we were not going to roll over and that they would be in for a tough day. A promising start was rewarded with the opening goal scored by debutant, Luke Thomas, who managed to squeeze a shot home when it looked easier to square it to another player. The stadium erupted, a huge relief to score first, but I’m sure for some of us a bit of a shock too. The first half continued to go well for us and we had further chances to increase our lead but did not take them. That’s something we need to address going forward.
The second half we had to weather a Fulham storm early on and right here was the difference with the Championship. In League One we would be comfortable at 1-0, knowing that many teams needed 4, maybe 5, chances before they scored. In the Championship, Fulham looked like they would score when they did manage to create chances. At 1-0 I took nothing for granted. These kinds of games are not good for the old heart and certainly not for the hair where mine has long since started going grey despite still being in my 30s!
We didn’t manage to increase our lead in the second half but thankfully held on against Fulham. It was a great relief and a terrific opening win from the Reds. They lapped up the deserved applause at the end and we stayed to cheer them off the pitch. In terms of performance you couldn’t fault the players. As delighted as I was to get the win though, I was also cautious. It was the opening day and had we played Fulham a few weeks later would the result have been the same with their side more settled? Impossible to say but even though we were the better team, Fulham had some good chances to get to 1-1 which would have felt like a loss had it happened.
Post-Match Mood: Enthused >>>>>>>>>>
In summary, it’s the first of 46 league games and if we play like we did against Fulham in the majority of the matches this season then I am confident we can stay out of relegation trouble. Long, long way to go yet. Next up is a trip to Sheffield Wednesday so I’ll be back for the home game against Charlton, who were were promoted with us last season, and are one of the teams we should aim to take all 3 points off. The Addicks, though, won’t be pushovers.