League One Final Day: Can Barnsley FC Nick Top Spot?5 min read
Barnsley FC have been one of the top two most impressive sides in League One all season; their hard work paid dividends on Tuesday night, when defeat for Portsmouth meant they secured automatic promotion without kicking a ball.
Daniel Stendel deserves immense credit: a lot of managers, especially those inheriting a relegated squad, would put pressure on the board to instigate an overhaul with strengthening in most positions.
Stendel, though, has almost gone the other way – Cauley Woodrow and Mike-Steven Bahre have been the only signings to feature prominently, including winter recruits.
The gegenpressing German gaffer was happy to work quietly with the group over the summer, to improve individuals and develop a system that allows them to thrive.
Gaffer just said…. town ??? pic.twitter.com/zCa5CO9ILd
— Barnsley FC (@BarnsleyFC) April 30, 2019
The Tykes, who operate with a high-pressing 4-2-2-2 setup, look brilliantly coached; they win the ball high up the pitch, then open teams up incisive build-up play and unpredictability of movement.
Woodrow and Bahre start as the two most advanced forwards, but as moves progress they are often the ones dropping deeper to allow Jacob Brown and Mamadou Thiam to break from wide into goalscoring positions – even Cameron McGeehan loves to make late runs from deep.
18 different players have scored for the Reds this term across all competitions, which shows they have so many different tools in their armoury.
Plus, if they need to employ a slightly more direct approach, they also have target man Kieffer Moore back fit to provide a focal point – Moore, himself, is a predatory goalscorer at this level with 18 this term.
Bristol Rovers’ 0-0 draw at Fleetwood last week was enough to confirm that they would be playing in League One again next season.
That looked by no means certain when Darrell Clarke left, so Graham Coughlan deserves credit for steadying the ship with 24 points from 19 games accrued under his watch.
Graham Coughlan #BristolRovers all comps record:
The #Gas record in previous 15 games before his took over:
— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) March 5, 2019
Perhaps one of the key moments was when the club, having loaned out Kyle Bennett to free up the wage bill, made the defining Deadline Day decision to bring in Jonson Clarke-Harris from Coventry.
Clarke-Harris’ shooting had left something to be desired in the Midlands, but as soon as he got his first goal for the Gasheads in the 1-1 draw at Portsmouth, confidence flowed from there – a hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Blackpool promptly followed.
It has been hugely important for Rovers to have a clinical striker, because they have ironically created a lower volume of chances than they did under Clarke.
The dearth of natural wingers has forced Coughlan to deploy players out wide away from their natural position.
Last time out, it was Liam Sercombe – a midfielder by trade possessing the power and drive to not look out of place out wide – and Tariqe Holmes-Dennis – a left-back by trade with similar qualities to Sercombe.
That was not ideal and certainly Coughlan will be keen to add wingers to the squad over the summer, but at least for now the recent setup has freed up Ollie Clarke to pick up gaps between the lines and influence the attacking play as much as he likes to.
Still, the Gasheads might lack the overall quality to match Barnsley FC, who could secure the League One title if they better Luton’s result at home to Oxford.
Tip: Barnsley FC to win -1 handicap