David Flitcroft is a man who enjoys the challenge of finding solutions to problems, writes Dom Howson.
It is very early days in the new football eseason but goals have proved very hard to come by for Barnsley.
They travel to Blackpool tomorrow looking to find the back of the net for the first time in the 2013/14 campaign, having fired blanks at home to Wigan Athletic in the Championship and Scunthorpe United in the Capital One Cup.
Against Wigan, Barnsley lacked ideas in the final third and had few shots at goal. Against Scunthorpe, Barnsley created opportunities but failed to put them away.
It has been well documented that Reds manager Flitcroft wants to bring in more firepower to increase competition for places up front. Aaron McLean and Billy Sharp have been linked with moves to Oakwell in recent weeks.
Despite a slow start, midfielder Jim O’Brien is backing strikers Chris Dagnall, Chris O’Grady and Jason Scotland to rediscover their scoring touch.
He said: “We are not worried at all [by the lack of goals]. We have got good strikers. We know they will come good. We know the lads are working hard for the team.
“Chris [Dagnall] had a bit of a goal drought in the first half of last season and then he went through a stage where he couldn’t score. They just need a bit of confidence. It is up to guys like me to give them the ball to get their goals.”
It was no disgrace for Flitcroft’s men to be comfortably turned over by Wigan, the FA Cup holders, last weekend. Before Ben Watson’s opener, Barnsley competed well and there was little to choose between the two sides. As the match wore on, the Latics underlined their superior quality and showed no mercy in front of goal.
“We knew they [Wigan] were a quality side and they will definitely be up there come the end of the season,” conceded O’Brien. “On Sunday, we did some video stuff on the game. Even though we got beat, as a group, we really did take a lot out of it.”
O’Brien started in an unfamiliar right wing-back position in the victory over Scunthorpe United. The Scot, a winger by trade, was named man of the match as the Reds squeezed into the second round of the cup after a 5-4 penalty shoot-out triumph.
“It was nice to play well,” said the former Motherwell midfielder. “It is a fairly new position for me. I was happy to play there.
“I thought it was probably one of my best games for Barnsley. The most important thing, though, was we got through the tie.”
O’Brien, who turns 26 next month, said he spoke “in depth” to Flitcroft regarding the wing-back role.
“As long as I learn it properly and know my job in the team and I’m on the park then that’s the most important thing to me,” he said. “As long as the team are doing well and I am in the team, I don’t really mind.
“You need to be really fit to play it. I think for us it is probably better having a natural winger play there than a full-back. That’s my opinion.
“I think it is much easier to turn a winger into a defender or teach him defending skills than it is to teach a defender attacking skills. From that point of view, it is coming quite naturally to me.”
Like Flitcroft, O’Brien can’t wait to pit his wits against Premier League opposition in the second round of the Capital One Cup. Barnsley will lock horns with Southampton at Oakwell in the week commencing August 26.
He said: “They are a quality side. We played them here a couple of years ago. We know they have got good players who can hurt us. We experienced that with Manchester City last season.
“It is a glamour tie against a really good side. We will look forward to that game when it comes around but right now we must concentrate on the league.”