Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
What was most impressive about Barnsley’s 3-0 home victory over Bradford last week was the quality of interplay.
One of the goals saw Alex Mowatt, a man-of-the-match performer, produce a lovely give-and-go with the outstanding Mamadou Thiam, before driving into the box and teeing up Kieffer Moore, a predatory goalscorer at this level, for a tap-in.
The Tykes dominated that game and, despite having two strikers up top in Moore and Cauley Woodrow, the latter having once played in the Premier League with Fulham, still allowed midfielders the licence to press forward and create.
Cameron McGeehan brings excellent dynamism to the midfield and Jacob Brown, on the right, is benefiting from a better platform to show his skills than he had while on loan at League Two strugglers Chesterfield last season.
⚂ | 3 word review time. Lets have YOUR review on a superb 3 nil Barnsley victory over Bradford City!
— The Reds Report📻 (@RedsReport_) January 12, 2019
Because Barnsley press with effervescent energy, they can sometimes force opposing teams to go long in their defensive third and that’s where centre-backs Ethan Pinnock and Liam Lindsay can dominate in the air.
The main difference we have seen under Downes, who is credited with creating the ‘crazy gang’ mentality while at the club in it’s previous incarnation, is that Wimbledon have rediscovered a sense of identity.
The team gets higher up the pitch while full-backs, Tennai Watson and now Steve Seddon, who has this week joined on loan from Birmingham after a successful stint at Stevenage, are encouraged to push on and put crosses into the box.
The Wombles put up a fight in every game, including last week’s 1-1 draw at Coventry, where they were perhaps unlucky to have to settle for a point.
Influential centre-back Deji Oshilaja has returned from injury to offer guidance for young talent Paul Kalambayi, with academy graduate Will Nightingale moving into a holding midfield role.
Anthony Hartigan, another graduate and Anthony Wordsworth, a summer signing from Southend, have injected fresh energy and a high standard of deliveries respectively, an alternative to the limited combination of Tom Soares and Liam Trotter which had featured prominently under Neal Ardley.
Going forward however, the Wombles remain short on quality, Mitch Pinnock aside, with 14 shots on target in their last five games – and that’s with a more adventurous outlook.
Barnsley, by contrast, have managed 25 shots on target in five with arguably harder fixtures.
Notably, the Tykes’ last display came against a resurgent Bradford side and the goals in fact had little to do with what their opponents got wrong, it was just a case of Barnsley showing a level of class that is almost unique at this level.
While Wimbledon’s renewed battling spirit gives them a better chance of bridging the five-point gap to safety therefore, it might not be enough against a team of Barnsley’s calibre.
Downes’ side could quite easily get picked apart on numerous occasions – without getting too much wrong in terms of application.
Barnsley to win 10/11