After Tuesday evening’s long-awaited victory over AFC Wimbledon, Bristol Rovers face the stiff challenge at Barnsley on Saturday. After their relegation last season, the Tykes have adapted well to put in a strong challenge for an immediate return.
Having been in a relegation battle all season the Tykes lost out to Bolton right at the end and were only 2 points short of staying up, a crucial 2-2 with the Trotters with just two matches left was the game that effectively sealed the Yorkshire team’s fate.
Currently 5th in the table, the Tykes have lost their last two games, 2-0 at Charlton and 3-1 at Shrewsbury. They are undefeated at home this season, having won 3 and drawn 3 of their games at Oakwell. On Tuesday night they lost just their 3rd away game of the season at Shrewsbury’s New Meadow.
It only took two minutes for the Shrews to take the lead. Reds’ keeper Adam Davies failed to deal with a cross into the box, knocking the ball straight to Greg Docherty who tapped home.
Barnsley attempted to rally but were stunned midway through the half when Ollie Norburn’s effort deflected off Alex Mowatt and looped over the unfortunate Davies. The visitors were then indebted to Davies as he kept out a shot from Fejiri Okenabirhie just before the interval.
That save looked crucial just after the restart when the Reds halved the deficit as Ethan Pinnock fired home from a knockdown in the box. George Moncur saw a goal bound effort cleared off the line before Luke Waterfall restored the hosts’ two-goal advantage.
Barnsley assistant coach Andreas Winkler spoke to the press after the game and accused League One teams of setting out to hurt his players after Kenny Dougall was injured. The Australian was forced off in the 21st minute after a poor tackle by Anthony Grant, which only received a yellow card.
Winkler accepted his side were below par, but questioned whether they had enough protection from referee Scott Oldham. “Kenny is injured. He has to go for a scan,” the German said. “I hope it was not a plan of Shrewsbury to only hurt him. In this moment and the following period the referee could do more to save our players.
“It looks like this is the plan from our opponent teams. Maybe we are the better football team. We had more possession, it's the plan to bring us into a lot of duels and make it very physical.”
"At this moment really, I believed in the team because I know what they can do," said Winkler. "It was in a perfect moment, five minutes after half time, and then you have 40 minutes to go for a goal or maybe two. Very disappointed after, a set-piece to the far post. They win the header and then they go on.”
"I think we had not a good start in the first half and the opponents tried to bring us out of our plan, very hard duals, direct play and this day we were not able enough.”
This will be the first time the clubs have clashed in the League since the 1992-93 season when the Yorkshire team won both games, 5-1 at Twerton Park and 2-1 at Oakwell. The clubs have only met twice in the FA Cup in the first and the last meetings!
The first game was on 5 February 1910 when the Yorkshire team thrashed Rovers 4-0. Rovers had beaten Grimsby away 2-0 before travelling up to Yorkshire. Wilf Bartrop, Ernie Gadsby, Tom Forman and George Utley scoring for the Tykes.
The last game took place on 13 February 1999 in a 5th Round tie, Rovers had beaten Woking, Exeter (in a replay), Rotherham and Leyton Orient. But goals by Craig Hignet (3) and Bruce Dyer for the home team and a single Jason Roberts goal saw a 4-1 victory for Barnsley.
The overall record between the teams shows that there have been 30 games, 11 Rovers wins, 9 draws and 10 Barnsley wins. Rovers’ last victory was on 9 November 1991 at Oakwell with Andy Preece scoring the vital goal.
The Reds’ Head Coach Daniel Stendel gave his thoughts on the game ahead, “We are prepared for the style from other teams; it is a normal reaction when we play football well with good, quality players.
“We need to be more competitive against the style and we showed at Fleetwood and Peterborough that our quality can win games. Shrewsbury was the first time that this wasn’t the case and I hope we can remember that we can show our quality and style in every game.”
“I think it’s important that we play our game. We are a little bit frustrated; this is normal. But on Saturday we have to stick to our way. I think we have conceded more in the last three games than we have in the games before, but we have the quality to score against any opponent.
“We’d like to win with a good performance, but, in the end, we’d like to win every game, if that’s with an ugly performance then that’s OK but we’d like to play well.”