Wales Online Correspondent, Glen Williams spoke to us previewing Barnsley’s encounter with Cardiff City this weekend – here’s the view from the opposition camp.
The Reds travel across the border into Wales on Saturday, looking to carry over their momentum following the impressive display in the 3-1 victory over Hull last time out; a game which marked Barnsley’s first win since the opening day of the season.
Head Coach, Gerhard Struber was introduced to the fans before kick-off at Oakwell and was rewarded with a fantastic performance from his side during his first home game in charge, as the Reds performed excellently in what turned out to be a well-deserved victory.
An excellent opening strike courtesy of Alex Mowatt, a cool finish from Mike Bähre and a wonderful half-volley by Conor Chaplin secured all three points in that game, leaving Barnsley hoping for much of the same this Saturday (7th December), as they travel to the Cardiff City Stadium in the Sky Bet Championship for a 3pm kick-off.
However, despite moving onto 12 points and within two of 23rd placed Stoke City, following the win over Hull, the Reds still remain bottom of the table and five points adrift of safety, as they look to climb out of the relegation zone.
As for Cardiff, they have had a strong start under new manager Neil Harris, since he was appointed the new man in charge at the back end of November.
After succeeding veteran Neil Warnock, the 42-year-old has come in with big boots to fill, but since his arrival at the Cardiff City Stadium, the Bluebirds have been in remarkable form, earning seven points from a possible nine during his first three matches in charge, most recently a 1-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.
Looking ahead to the encounter this weekend, Cardiff City reporter Williams said: “I think the Bluebirds have looked refreshed and rejuvenated under new boss Neil Harris. It couldn't really have gone much better for him.
“The first 45 minutes apart against Charlton, the Bluebirds have been mightily impressive.
He has instilled an ethos of hard work and that is bearing fruit and yielding results. They look far more resolute in defence and the shape of the side is far better as a whole.
“Given Barnsley's current plight, I think City will be relishing the opportunity this weekend to really propel themselves up the table and into the play-off mix.”
Although, despite Cardiff’s current form, it hasn’t all been plain sailing for them at times this season, with Williams highlighting inconsistency as one of the main factors behind their current league position.
“The season began incredibly underwhelmingly, with their away form the worst aspect so far.
“They have shown glimpses of their former selves but have largely been too inconsistent.
“The shape has looked far better in recent weeks, though, and, crucially, their wingers are beginning to fire again.”
Despite mentioning the fundamental role of the wingers within the Bluebird’s line-up, fellow attacker, Lee Tomlin has been given the free role to operate as the central attacking midfielder just behind the lone striker and has been the standout figure for Cardiff so far this season.
“Lee Tomlin has been the standout attacking player this season. He has been given a clear run in the side and is reaping the rewards.
“He has magic in his boots and a terrific football brain and is the main man Barnsley need to keep quiet.”
However, Williams also picked out defender Curtis Nelson as one of the other impressive performers in Neil Harris’ side.
“Curtis Nelson has emerged as a superb addition at centre back this season and has even kept captain Sean Morrison out of the side in recent weeks. He looks confident with the ball at his feet and his positional play is second to none.”
With that in mind, Williams expects the Bluebirds to line-up with a 4-4-1-1 formation, operating with far more width and attacking power than under Warnock earlier on in the campaign.
The Cardiff City Correspondent added: “Neil Warnock's style was always blood and thunder and while Harris has harnessed some of that wholeheartedness, the style of play is evolving.
“It's far more passing-orientated than it was under Warnock and the wing backs are given more of a licence to bomb forward.
“The Cardiff XI (4-4-1-1) will probably be: Etheridge; Peltier, Nelson, Flint, Bennett; Mendez-Laing, Pack, Bacuna, Hoilett; Tomlin; Madine.
“It will likely be a continuation of the game plan Neil Harris has tried to implement since he was appointed.
“They are trying to play the ball on the floor a lot more but are also keen to get it to the dangerous wingers and Tomlin as quickly as possible to do the damage.
“If they play with the pace and intensity they have been in recent weeks, it could be a tough afternoon for the Tykes.”
However, Williams did suggest Cardiff could struggle down the left-hand side in particular, emphasizing this as a key area for the pacey Barnsley attackers to exploit.
“A constant weakness this season has been down City's left-hand side. Joe Bennett has struggled in defence at times this season because of his penchant for getting forward.
“Also, there were gaping holes in central midfield against Charlton at times, because Marlon Pack and Leandro Bacuna were adjusting to their new role as a midfield two.
“They have looked far more assured in the subsequent two games, to be fair, but something to keep an eye on.”
Despite the possible shakiness down the left flank, Cardiff City fans have had a lot to cheer over recent weeks after the appointment of Harris brought a real boost to the atmosphere around the ground.
Speaking about the general feeling in the city, Williams added: “They [the fans], feel far more at ease now than they did just a few weeks back.
“Seven points from nine and in touching distance of the play-offs represents a far rosier picture.
“It is early days under Harris, of course, but the mood is certainly improving with each passing game.”
The Wales Online Correspondent gave his score prediction of Cardiff City 3-0 Barnsley.