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Game of the Weekend Preview: Barnsley vs Watford


Barnsley v Watford – Saturday 17th September 2011 – 3.00 pm kick-off

Last time the sides met

Watford 1-0 Barnsley (Saturday 23rd April 2011)

Eustace (2)

The Lowdown

With two fiercely contested derbies to look forward to this weekend, it can be easy to ignore fixtures that could have severe implications at the end of the season. Barnsley and Watford fans may point to this weekend as the defining moment of their season, as both clubs look set to be embroiled in a relegation battle. To survive in the Championship, it is absolutely crucial that they are not defeated by the teams around them, even at this early stage in the season. Both clubs have acquired the same total of points and are only separated by one place in the table with Barnsley in 16th and Watford in 17th.


Recent Results & Overall Attendances:

Barnsley 1-1 Leicester City (D) – 10,862

Millwall 0-0 Barnsley (D) – 10,033

Reading 1-2 Barnsley (W) – 15,878

Barnsley 1-3 Middlesbrough (L) – 10,603

Barnsley 0-1 Southampton (L) – 10,501

Barnsley 0-2 Morecambe (L) – 4,331

Barnsley have experienced plenty of highs and lows in recent years. From being on the brink of administration to defeating the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea in the F.A Cup, Tykes fans cannot say it has been boring. Admirably, they have remained in the Championship since their promotion from League One in 2006. Former Rochdale manager Keith Hill has established a never-say-die attitude ensuring positive results against the likes of Leicester, Reading and Forest in recent weeks. The defence has been reasonably tight considering the high-profile departure of centre-back Jason Shackell to Derby County in the summer.

Hill will be hoping that his side can clinch their first victory of the season in front of their own fans. Two goals in their opening four games at home will have to be improved upon if the club want to steer themselves away from a relegation battle. Barnsley do lack a goal-scorer that will enter double figures, as Andy Gray works tirelessly up front feeding from scraps. In the last two games, he has been preferred as the lone striker as Barnsley have achieved admirable draws with Millwall and Leicester. It seems that Hill is set to continue with the former Sunderland striker, and he’ll expect midfielders Perkins, Done and Butterfield to provide ammunition.  If Gray is not firing on Saturday, expect Danny Haynes, Riccardo Vaz Te and Craig Davies to battle for a place up-front as Hill continues to search for the right combination in attack.

The Tykes had to wait until their fifth game to get their first victory under Hill’s stewardship. They defeated a Reading side that had two penalties saved by goalkeeper Luke Steele on their own turf. The clinical, ruthless nature of the victory demonstrated that Barnsley have the quality to take their chances when presented to them.

Expected Starting Line-Up

                                                                          L.Steele (GK)

R.Hassell (RB)                   R.Edwards (CB)              S.Foster (CB)                J.McNulty (LB)

                                                                  D.Drinkwater (CDM)

D.Perkins (RM)            J.O’Brien (CM)                        J.Butterfield (CM)      M.Done (LM)

                                                                        A.Gray (ST)

Next 6 League Fixtures: 

Birmingham City (A) – Saturday 24th September, 3.00pm

Derby County (A) – Tuesday 27th September, 7.45pm

Coventry City (H) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm

Portsmouth (A) – Saturday 15th October, 5.30pm

Burnley (H) – Tuesday 18th October, 7.45pm

Cardiff City (A) – Saturday 22nd October, 3.00pm 


Recent Results & Overall Attendances:

Reading 0-2 Watford (W) – 17,128

Watford 2-2 Birmingham City (D) – 11,937

Bristol Rovers 1-1 Watford (aet 2-4 on pens) (L) – 4,432

Coventry City 0-0 Watford (D) – 13,043

Watford 0-4 West Ham United (L) – 14,747

Watford 0-1 Derby County (L) – 12,263

Like Barnsley, Watford have been many people’s tips for relegation in recent years. The Hornets have proved them wrong countless times, ensuring that more fancied clubs such as Charlton Athletic, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United were left embarrassed in League One. Last season, novice manager Malky Mackay guided the Hornets to a respectable 14th position as he was praised for establishing a fantastic work-ethic amongst his players. The spearhead of their success was top-scorer Danny Graham as he netted a staggering 27 goals. Unfortunately, Mackay and Graham have departed for Wales joining Cardiff City and Swansea City respectively. Step forward Sean Dyche (Mackay’s assistant), a man with no managerial experience, yet prides himself on hard work, discipline and organisation. He has not shifted away from Mackay’s approach, meaning Watford should be able to enjoy a solid season.

Dyche believed that the Hornets were robbed of two points against Coventry City, sighting the referee as the reason they had to settle for a 0-0 draw. He was left even more frustrated on the opening day of the season, as they were pegged back by Burnley at Turf Moor having been 2-0 up. The Hornets repeated Barnsley’s feat as they picked up their first league victory of the season at the Madejski Stadium. Their performances away from home will have given the players belief that they can win at Oakwell on Saturday.

“Of course you take inspiration, Ashley came from Watford and a lot of people probably think ‘little old Watford’. But he’s worked really hard and that’s what’s got him his rewards”. Watford youngster Marvin Sordell hopes to replicate Ashley Young’s rise to the top.

Sordell, 20, recently scored an absolute screamer for the England under-21’s at Oakwell and will hope to repeat it at the same location on Saturday. Since Graham departed, the fans believe that he is the main goal-scoring for the Hornets. His pace and trickery have seen him linked with a £4m move to Southampton in January. Watford may not sell straight away but if Sordell continues his rapid progression, it will not be long until the vultures start circling.

Expected Starting Line-Up

                                                                   S.Loach (GK)

L.Doyley (RB)              M.Taylor (CB)                   A.Mariappa (CB)         C.Dickinson (LB)

M.Yeates (RM)            J.Eustace (CM)                  J.Hogg (CM)                C.Forsyth (LM)

                                        M.Sordell (ST)                    A.Weimann (ST)

Next 6 League Fixtures:

Nottingham Forest (H) – Saturday 24th September, 5.15pm

Millwall (H) – Tuesday 27th September, 7.45pm

Southampton (A) – Saturday 1st October, 3.00pm

Crystal Palace (H) – Saturday 15th October, 3.00pm

Leicester City (A) – Wednesday 19th October, 7.45pm

Hull City (A) – Saturday 22nd October, 3.00pm 

Tactical Battle – Where the game might be won and lost

Ultimately the onus will be on Barnsley to create, as they are the home side. This could mean that the fans are in for a frustrating afternoon as Watford have a very experienced backline that should be able to handle lone striker Andy Gray. Whilst captain John Eustace will anchor the midfield ensuring the likes of Marvin Sordell and Mark Yeates are given the licence to counter the home side on the break.

On the other hand, these flair players may not get the freedom they desire if the five-man midfield of Barnsley are disciplined. If the home fans become impatient, the midfielders might lose their concentration in an attempt to turn one point into three. Given their recent performances on the road, Watford have the capabilities to exploit any potential lapse, meaning the home side will have to be on their guard defensively.


Both sides have improved defensively in recent weeks, so it is likely to be a stalemate with both sides cancelling each other out. If I was forced to pick a winner it would be Watford given their recent performances on the road.

Barnsley 0-1 Watford.

Recommended Bets

Paddy Power

Barnsley 0-1 Watford (Correct score – 8/1) – This seems a very decent price considering both side’s recent defensive success.

Marvin Sordell (1st Goalscorer – 13/2) – Expect Sordell to be heavily involved in Watford’s attacks.

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