Within the space of four days the twists and turns of the promotion and play off races have been there for everyone to see.
I felt the game at Barnsley was always going to be a difficult encounter. Paul Heckingbottom has to be applauded for how well he has done with his newly-promoted side and the fact that they sit comfortably in mid-table in a highly-competitive league shouldn’t have been overlooked. Throw into the equation the fact that it was a local derby and Sheffield Wednesday were always going to have a game on their hands. That we conceded in injury time was a real sickener but by all accounts Barnsley were good for a point at least and hopefully we will look back on it as a good point gained come the end of the season. At this moment in time it doesn’t feel that way but it is all about trying to get over the line and into the play-offs now and every point will count come the end of the season.
On we went to another local derby in Rotherham and Carlos Carvalhal really shuffled the pack, opting to change the way we set up to play with a ‘diamond’ in midfield or a 4-3-1-2, whichever way you want to look at it. It was good to see the return of both Gary Hooper and Steven Fletcher, both I’m sure would be the first to admit that they haven’t had the seasons they had wished for albeit with injuries or goals scored, and with a front three including Jordan Rhodes it looked on paper to be a very attacking formation.
To be fair to Rotherham they gave it a good go, especially in the first half, but the difference between the two teams was most definitely the quality in front of goal and with Fletcher's brace in the first half we secured a vital three points made even sweeter by the news that the teams above us had both lost.
All of a sudden the table looks a lot more favourable for us and with Leeds getting beaten again, I’m sure they will be looking over their shoulders. Only a couple of games ago they looked like they were moving clear of the chasing pack but it goes to show how quickly it can change in either direction. That is something that everyone has to remember and like most people I can see it going down to the wire.
The only things that Carlos Carvalhal and his players can affect are their own results. Although we all look for other teams results it is really in their own hands and the full focus must be on just that. We have a tough run of games coming up over the next few weeks and none tougher than the visit of Newcastle this Saturday. If you want to be successful then you have to expect tough games, and furthermore, you need to do well in them.
We’ve had mixed results against the teams above us this season but I was lucky enough to make the trip up to Newcastle on Boxing Day and witnessed what I regard as the best performance of the season so far. We were compact, difficult to beat and to be honest could have won by more than the single, Glenn Loovens goal on the day. Saturday will be a different story in my opinion, Newcastle are another club with enormous expectations and they have found that expectation has weighed heavily on their shoulders at home this year where teams have set up to be difficult to beat. On their travels they have found teams come at them a bit more and are more open, allowing them to exploit the space left in behind with their quality. This is something that I am sure Carlos and his staff will be aware of and I will be interested to see how he sets us up on Saturday to counteract what is a very good Newcastle outfit.
We have so many versatile players that there are a number of formations that the manager could choose from this weekend. The talk is that Fernando Forestieri may well be back fit, which would be another real bonus. How he would fit him into the starting line up remains to be seen but hopefully, whichever players he picks against Newcastle they should have taken some confidence from the win at Rotherham and furthermore a clean sheet. The latter being slightly fortunate in my opinion with Rotherham missing a couple of gilt-edged chances in the game but take it we will.
With four home games and just two away games it would be fantastic to replicate the energy and atmosphere that we all witnessed in the latter stages of last season. The prize is enormous for success in the Championship and I just hope we can play the remaining few games with plenty of energy and pace and book ourselves a place in the play offs. A result on Saturday will go a long way in doing this and give the whole staff the confidence to kick on.
Jon Newsome is the owner of prestige, sports and performance cars specialists, Automarques 21-23 Leigh Street, Sheffield S9 2PR