Stuart Rayner, Chief Football Writer at The Yorkshire Post, gave his thoughts ahead of Barnsley’s encounter with Huddersfield Town this Saturday (11th January) – here’s the view from the opposition camp.
The second Yorkshire derby of the season between two sides at the wrong end of the table shapes for an interesting matchup at Oakwell this weekend.
Whilst Gerhard Struber’s side look to return to winning ways in the league following defeat to Derby County on the 2nd of January, Danny Cowley’s Huddersfield Town will be searching for their third win in their last five Sky Bet Championship matches.
Both teams were involved in FA Cup action last weekend, which came as a well-deserved break from the league. However, whilst Barnsley progressed to the fourth round of the competition for the first time since 2013 with victory over Crewe Alexandra, Huddersfield were knocked out of the competition by Premier League side Southampton.
As the attention turns back to the Championship this weekend, eyes will be eagerly watching from both sides, as both Barnsley and Huddersfield look to move themselves away from the drop zone.
With the Reds currently in 23rd, a win could move them to within four points of Huddersfield Town, who sit on the cusp of the relegation zone in 20th, but on the flip side, victory for Danny Cowley, could potentially see them break away from the chasing pack and move eight points clear if other results go their way.
Speaking to Stuart Rayner of The Yorkshire Post ahead of this highly anticipated fixture, he said: “It seems like Barnsley have started to find some decent form under Gerhard Struber. Huddersfield have also picked up under Danny Cowley, but after the injuries they’ve had, they have found it quite tough over the festive period, so I think it might be a tight game.
“Regardless of the fact that it’s a Yorkshire derby, I think both teams will be looking at this one as a game which they can win, in order to pick up important points to stay up at the end of the season.”
It’s been a rather underwhelming campaign for Huddersfield Town since their relegation from the Premier League at the end of last season, and whilst most bookies would have tipped them for an instant return to England’s top flight, they have had to deal with a battle to save themselves from back-to-back relegations, something they weren’t expecting they to have to do.
“Huddersfield’s season started really badly. It looked like they were stuck in a bit of a downward spiral after they got relegated last season.
“You often see that happen to teams. It happened to Stoke and Sunderland, they also really struggled to steady the ship after getting relegated from the Premier League. Huddersfield were definitely in that situation as well,” added Rayner.
Following a dismal start to the 2019/20 season, which began with no wins in their first nine matches, it prompted the board at the John Smith’s Stadium to make changes which led to the sacking of German manager Jan Siewert.
Danny Cowley, who built up a strong reputation in the English Football League with Lincoln City, was the man tasked with turning the fortunes of the Terriers around. The 41-year-old joined Huddersfield alongside his brother Nicky, 36, who assists him on the touchline.
Since the pair arrived in the town, things have started to improve for the Terriers’ and within their first full month in charge, Danny won the Championship Manager of the Month.
Speaking to Rayner of The Yorkshire Post, he had nothing but positive words to say about the duo.
He said: “Ever since the Cowley brothers came in, there is a lot more belief and organisation about them. I think they can be a lot more confident about their chance of staying up now.”
The Chief Football Writer also spoke about Cowley’s philosophy, and what that will mean for Barnsley on Saturday.
He went on to say: “Cowley has been compromised a little bit on his philosophy because he’s had so many injuries to contend with. As a result, he’s gone a bit more direct and physical than he would have done otherwise.
“That has partly been influenced by fact he’s not had many different alternatives to Steve Mounie in attack, so he’s had to play to his strengths, which means playing more direct football.
“I think whilst in time, we will start to see a more cultured Huddersfield Town, at the moment, they will continue to be physical and try to rough Barnsley up.”
One player in particular the Reds will have to keep a keen eye on this weekend is striker Karlan Grant, who joined the Terriers from fellow Championship side Charlton Athletic in the summer.
The 22-year-old leads the way as the club’s top scorer this season, already notching an impressive 12 goals, which is seven clear of the rest of the squad.
“Karlan Grant has been great this season. He’s the obvious one to pick. He had a really good 2019 since moving from Charlton. He looks like a quality striker and I think Huddersfield will have a big job on their hands to keep hold of him this month.”
Another standout performer for Huddersfield has been Dutch midfielder Juninho Bacuna, who signed back in 2018, but has really kicked on this season.
“Juninho Bacuna has been the surprise package because of the way he has come through. Everyone knew he had talent, but Cowley has done a great job of being able to it out of him more consistently,” said Rayner.
With the players finally starting to reach their potential, the fans in the town of Huddersfield have renewed optimism both ahead of this weekend and for the future.
Rayner explained: “I think there is cause for optimism for the fans right now with the way that the team finished 2019 under Cowley. I think they’ll be looking ahead to this game in the same light as the manager and see it as one they can win.”