Three South Yorkshire clubs make up the bottom seven of the Championship table.
Having watched the trio in action over the weekend, it is easy to see why Doncaster Rovers, Barnsley and Sheffield Wednesday will all be flirting with the drop this season. They find clean sheets hard to come by and then squander gilt-edged scoring opportunities themselves. A toxic combination.
Rovers sit in 18th position after Friday’s 4-0 thumping at Middlesbrough, Barnsley lie in 23rd spot while Wednesday are bottom of the pile. Surely things can only get better.
At Oakwell on Saturday, Barnsley and Wednesday served up an entertaining lunch-time affair, a far better spectacle than the corresponding fixture last season. It was a derby full of effort and endeavour but there were few moments of genuine quality.
The first half belonged to Barnsley. The second to Wednesday. Ultimately, a point apiece is no good to either team.
The Owls could not live with the Reds’ high-tempo pressing game in the opening 45 minutes. David Flitcroft’s side hunted in packs, closed Wednesday down high up the pitch, forcing them into errors. David Perkins epitomised their work ethic throughout.
Given that Seyi Olofinjana had not played a competitive match since May, it was a bold decision from Dave Jones to hand the big Nigerian a start in the middle of park. He lacked the match sharpness to impose his physicality on Barnsley as Wednesday struggled to retain possession. Once Olofinjana gets up to speed, he should prove a good foil for Stephen McPhail.
Just after the quarter-of -an-hour mark, Olofinjana squared a simple pass to Wednesday captain Reda Johnson, who was dispos
sessed deep inside his own half by Paddy McCourt. The loose ball fell invitingly into the path of Marcus Pedersen and his fierce drive struck the post. The disappointment of being denied the opener
upright could have affected the Norwegian but he didn’t let his concentration levels drop and seconds later he was celebrating his second goal in English football.
He beautifully controlled David Fox’s pass before smashing an unstoppable volley past a helpless Chris Kirkland. Cue pandemonium on three sides of the ground.
Pedersen, who also registered in
the Reds’ victory over Huddersfield Town at the end of August, admitted: “It was nice to score a goal in a derby. I hit the post first and was a little bit frustrated - for one second - and then I get a good ball from Foxy. A good first touch and then knocked it in.”
The Pedersen and Chris O’Grady partnership is a work in a progress. They are not on the same wavelength yet but the duo could be the difference between Barnsley staying up or going down.
“Chris is a good man and strong on the pitch so I can go in behind him and score some goals,” said Pedersen.
“I feel we fit together. I am a little bit more of the striker who goes in behind (the defence), while Chris is strong and can hold the balls, while he can also score goals.”
The travelling fans booed Jones’ decision to take off Jermaine Johnson in the 51st minute and chanted: “You don’t know what you are doing.” But Atdhe Nuhiu, Johnson’s replacement, vindicated Jones’ tactical change by playing a major role in their fightback. He gave them a focal point up front and unsettled Barnsley’s dogged back four.
If the manager’s decision to start Olofinjana had failed, Jones redeemed himself by putting on Nuhiu as the visitors wrestled control away from the Reds.
With half an hour remaining, Barnsley’s resolute and dogged defence briefly switched off, allowing Matty Fryatt to lash in his second goal in five Owls appearances. For the second away match on the trot, Wednesday had come from behind. Character in the face of adversity is certainly one thing Jones’ team does possess and they will need plenty of that over the coming months.
Pedersen said: “It’s always fun to play a derby. Of course you want to get three points, but you can see it was a classic derby, a lot of duels. We didn’t get the ball on the ground as we normally do, but I think we are on a run and will take some confidence from this game.
“We should win at home, but it was a fair result.
“It’s been a tough season, we haven’t got the results we wanted. We got three points (against Middlesbrough) last week and this week we got one, so hopefully we go to Ipswich with a bit more confidence.”
Fryatt, wanted by Barnsley in the summer, is set to return to Hull following the expiry of his loan deal. His strike oozed class. It is imperative Wednesday retain Fryatt’s services if they are to move clear of the relegation zone.
Jones may have to be brave and pair Fryatt, if kept on, and Nuhiu together for their Hillsborough clash with Reading.
Saturday was a missed opportunity for Wednesday and Barnsley, but Flitcroft’s charges will be satisfied with four points from two home matches. What winless Wednesday would give for a home victory after experiencing their most unsuccessful opening to a league campaign in 14 years.