Doncaster Rovers v Barnsley: ‘Momentum and belief are strong for Reds’ – the opposition view

Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel
Barnsley boss Daniel Stendel

What better way for Doncaster Rovers to show they are getting their promotion push back on track than with a local derby - and one against a rival looking certain to secure an automatic spot?

Rovers welcome flying neighbours Barnsley to the Keepmoat on Friday night with both sides needing victories to strengthen their respective positions.

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

Q: Barnsley look in an incredibly strong position. What have been the reasons behind the success this season?

DO’K: Barnsley have a lot of quality in the squad, especially at League One level. 

They really shouldn’t have been relegated from the Championship last season but made a mistake in their managerial appointment after Paul Heckingbottom left in February and that cost them badly. 

They backed almost exactly the same squad to go back up under a new, much more successful head coach and, in the last few months, they have found a real solidity, consistency and character during their current 17-match unbeaten run which is the best since 1981. 

Q: They've shown tremendous resolve - losing big players, the assistant manager etc. How have they managed to motor on?

DO’K: Although they sold Tom Bradshaw and Brad Potts, their replacements Cauley Woodrow and Jacob Brown have done extremely well while Dale Tonge has been promoted from U16s coach in a seamless transition after Andreas Winkler moved to Huddersfield Town.

The sickening season-ending head injury Kieffer Moore picked up at Gillingham has really added motivation to win promotion for him, while the controversial three-game bans for Brown and Cameron McGeehan – which ended after Friday’s game – have also added to the determination in the team.

They just have a very strong momentum and belief which has been evident in games like Oxford United away in January when they played badly but still came from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. 

Q: Daniel Stendel arrived as an unknown but certainly seems to be the real deal. How much of a factor has his leadership been?

DO’K: Considering he could not speak English when he arrived and had barely any knowledge of the club or the league, it was remarkable how he instantly transformed a demoralised group of relegated players into promotion challengers.

He’s clearly a talented coach who has managed in the Bundesliga and he seems very popular in the dressing room and on the terraces. 

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

DO’K: He prefers 4-4-2 but, with Kieffer Moore injured, he has recently been playing 4-4-1-1 with his only German signing, Mike Bahre, playing just behind lone striker Cauley Woodrow.

As for playing style, it’s a classic German high-pressing, counter-attacking game which has overwhelmed teams at times this season.

Q: Who are the danger men for Barnsley?

DO’K: It’s hard to look past Cauley Woodrow who has 14 goals this season, despite missing the first three months through injury.

Alex Mowatt, who is from Doncaster, has probably been the Player of the Year and is also dangerous shooting from long distance or bursting forward from central midfield.