Behind Enemy Lines: Barnsley

MILLWALL have picked up seven points from their last three games, and won their third consecutive home game on Tuesday night against Jaap Stam’s Reading.

A double from George Saville sent the Lions’ fans home happy after Reading led with just 10 minutes left.

This is the final game before the international break, with a club record six Millwall players linking up with international squads next week.

Barnsley have picked up just two points from their four league games in September, losing to Wolves and Aston Villa and drawing with Preston and QPR.

This as a battle between two excellent young managers, both Neil Harris and Paul Heckingbottom having won promotion to the Championship via the play-offs. It’s the first meeting of the sides since May 2016 when the Tykes defeated the Lions at Wembley.

Lucas Ball spoke to Barnsley fan Phil Evans ahead of the game at The Den this Saturday.

Twitter: @CaspersShorts

Why do you support Barnsley?

I've always been a big believer in supporting your local team. But really I had no say in it. All my family supported Barnsley and I was taken to Oakwell from a very early age.

Now I'm older, I think Barnsley's one of those places where the character of the team has a strong affinity with the character of the area – like Millwall. We know who we are. We're not big time Charlies. But very often we upset the odds. I love that about my club and my town.

What’s your best season supporting the club and why?

There's been some crackers but I'd have to say our promotion year in 1996-97. I'd been watching Barnsley for 20 years and in my heart of hearts I never really thought we'd reach the Premier League.

It was a big surprise to everyone I know and truly incredible to do it.

How far can Paul Heckingbottom go as a manager?

All the way – I really believe that.

In less than two years he's shown he can work wonders with players. If he keeps doing that there'll be clubs with deeper pockets coming in for him.

Paul's a Barnsley lad and a fan – as a kid he stood on the terraces just like us – so I'd like to think he'll stay for a while. And I'd like to think our proposed takeover (due any day now) will make sure that happens.

But I know that if he keeps improving one day he'll get an offer he can't turn down. Hopefully we're alright until Barcelona need a new gaffer.

What were your expectations at the start of the season and how do you feel about the start?

The heart was ripped out of our side last season. We sold Alfie Mawson (Swansea), Conor Hourihane (Aston Villa), James Bree (Villa), Sam Winnall (Sheffield Wednesday) and Marc Roberts (Birmingham). Then, in the summer, Josh Scowen (QPR) and Marley Watkins (Norwich) left for bigger contracts.

So we've signed an entire new team, mostly from the lower leagues.

The truth is none of us know how the lads are going to get on and whether they're up to Championship standard. We expected a slow start and although we haven't had too many positive results the performances have been better than many of us expected.

But in Hecky we trust. Most reds fans trust our manager to see us through.

Which of Heckingbottom's players are the key men?

At the moment, Adam Hammill looks most likely to make something happen. He was in and out of the team last season but has probably been our biggest threat so far.

Tom Bradshaw has scored five so far this term and we've got a young forward on loan from Chelsea called Ike Ugbo. He's going to be a good player but you might not see him, we've been playing one up top a lot this year – or three if you're feeling optimistic – so it'll probably be either Ugbo or Bradshaw.

Harvey Barnes (on loan from Leicester) and Ryan Hedges have a goal in them too.

At the back, Liam Lindsay and Adam Jackson look like a decent pairing at centre-half and Joe Williams (on loan from Everton) is a good player in the centre of the park.

But most of our boys are playing at this level for the first time, so there's always the sense that a little bit of naivity might cost us.

Mamadou Thiam (new signing from Dijon) hasn't had much game time but I've got big hopes for him.

Who from the Millwall side will cause Barnsley problems?

Your team's changed a fair bit since last time we met so this is a tricky one. I'd like to think, with our height at the back, we should be able to deal with Morison's aerial threat so it'll be a case of keeping tabs on George Saville, Aiden O'Brien and Jed Wallace and stopping them from picking up knock-downs and second balls.

I always think Lee Gregory's got a goal in him too.

What’s your predicted Barnsley line-up and formation?

4-1-4-1

Davies

McCarthy Jackson Lindsay Fryers

Williams

Hammill Potts Moncur Barnes

Bradshaw

Finally, a score prediction?

2-0 to us. Brad Potts with the first early doors, then Thiam from the bench late on. We really need a win.

Graphic: @ShedCreative 

Staff

(@NewsAtDen)