Barnsley v Doncaster Rovers: The opposition view – ‘Matches with Donny aren’t considered as big as others’

Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel
Barnsley manager Daniel Stendel

It is derby time in South Yorkshire and with Doncaster Rovers and Barnsley pushing towards the upper reaches of League One, this Saturday’s clash at Oakwell is a mouthwatering prospect.

Hosts Barnsley have bounced back from the disappointment of relegation in superb fashion and could move into the automatic promotion places if things go their way this weekend.

We spoke to the Barnsley Chronicle’s sports editor Doug O’Kane to get the lowdown on the Reds’ impressive start to the campaign.

Q: It's been a superb start to the season. What factors do you put that down to and how have Barnsley been able to shake off relegation so easily?

DO’K: They have a lot of players who have experience of this division and the ability to thrive in it.

They have done so before so they are confident at this level.

As a team, they are unified and know each other well –  only one or two of the regular starters signed in the summer.

The success is built on one of the tightest defences in the EFL, but also a high-intensity style which suited the superfit and athletic squad which Daniel Stendel inherited, and some quality in attack. 

Q: It seems promotion was the goal from the outset. Was that the case and how to you assess their chances from what you've seen of them and the rest of League One so far?

DO’K: It was definitely the goal as soon as relegation was confirmed on May 6 in Derby.

I think they have a good chance of getting in the top six, but it’s much harder to say at the moment whether they will be able to fight off the likes of Portsmouth or Sunderland for a place in the top two.

They have a history of selling their best players every transfer window so how they come through January could be crucial.

That comes just after a run of games against sides currently in the top eight which might also be a deciding factor.  

Q: What system and style of play does Daniel Stendel favour?

DO’K: He has finally been able to revert to his favourite 4-4-2 because Cauley Woodrow has returned from injury to partner Kieffer Moore up front. Previously Moore was the only senior striker so he had been using 4-2-3-1. 

Q: What has Stendel brought to the club?

DO’K: A lot of the focus has been on his ‘gegenpress’ style of high pressing and quick counter-attacking, and that has definitely been a feature of their play.

But Barnsley played like that previously under Paul Heckingbottom so it is not that new to the fans or most of the squad.

The best thing Stendel has done is, despite barely speaking any English when he arrived, inject lots of positivity into the club and the staff so that – even by the start of the season – relegation felt a lot longer than just three months before.

He has also hugely tightened up the defence and turned around the home form, although it is much easier to do that when you are in League One not the Championship. 

Q: Who are the danger men for Barnsley?

DO’K: Kieffer Moore is the top-scorer with ten goals and he’s started to link up really well with new strike partner Cauley Woodrow.

Brad Potts has six goals from the right wing and central midfielder Alex Mowatt – who is originally from Doncaster and still lives there – has probably been the player of the season so far, dictating play from the middle of the park.

Q: What are the anticipation levels for Saturday's game? Is this seen as a big derby from the Barnsley end?

DO’K: I don’t think games against Donny are traditionally considered as big as matches with the Sheffield clubs or Leeds by the majority of Barnsley fans.

Every game seems pretty big at the moment - they had half of Accrington’s ground on Saturday.

But, with the two clubs being the only South Yorkshire outfits in League One this season and both in the top ten at the moment, this is the only derby at Oakwell in the league this campaign and an important fixture.