As 2010 limped out with two defeats, Tykes fans would have hoped that 2011 started on a more positive note beginning with a visit to Nottingham Forest, unbeaten at the City Ground this season and fresh from a 5-2 demolishing of Midland rivals Derby County.
Barnsley comprehensively beat Forest at Oakwell 3-1 in October and looked to be ending Forests 30 game unbeaten run at the City Ground when they went 2-0 up. Matthew Hill had given the Tykes the half-time lead and on 50 minutes Andy Gray’s header doubled the Barnsley advantage.
On 68 minutes, Lewis McGugan's penalty after a foul on Chris Gunter pulled one back for the home side and Nathan Tyson fired in a loose ball to complete the come-back with 10 minutes remaining. A definite case of two points lost rather than a point gained for Mark Robins team.
Finally the Festive programme was completed by the visit of Coventry City to Oakwell. Barnsley were quickly in front with Nathan Doyle giving the Tykes a fourth-minute lead when he beat Keiren Westwood with a 30-yard strike. However, the Sky Blues levelled through Freddy Eastwood to take the sides in level at half-time.
The Reds were the better team in the second half and Goran Lovre deservedly wrapped up the points on 57 minutes for the Tykes. So the Christmas and New Year period of four games brought a return of 4 points from a possible 12. Hardly what everyone at the club would have wanted – Barnsley continue to frustrate with a two steps forward, one step back sort of season. Therefore it will be a welcome distraction this weekend when Barnsley travel to Upton Park for their FA Cup third round fixture.
The Tykes have played the Hammers in the FA Cup on two previous occasions, both within the last 18 years. On the first occasion, West Ham travelled to Oakwell for a Fourth Round tie in January 1993 when both Barnsley and West Ham were Championship sides. The Reds has already lost to the team from East London in the League fixture at Oakwell, but an inspired hat-trick from Andy Rammell and a Neil Redfearn goal saw the Tykes home to a convincing 4-1 win and progress to the Fifth Round.
The only other FA Cup meeting with the Hammers was just two years ago in the Third Round at Upton Park. Barnsley were depleted with injuries and they were no match for their Premier League opponents. Congolese International Herita Ilunga gave the home side a tenth minute lead and the game was all but over just before half-time when a Mark Noble penalty put West Ham 2-0 up. A third goal on sixty eight minutes from Carlton Cole killed off any Barnsley resistance.
Looking ahead to the game this Saturday, an upbeat Mark Robin said: “We have no problems going into this game. This is a great game for us and it is a break from the League and one we are relishing. We are the underdogs. We are going to a Premier League team and they have got quality throughout their squad. They will be hurting from last night (5-0 defeat at Newcastle United) and have a big Semi- Final (League Cup 1st Leg at home to Birmingham City) a couple of days later.
“We could face a backlash on Saturday, but we know we are a decent side and we are looking forward to it. We are playing Premier League opposition but this is the FA Cup and anything can happen. We are going there to enjoy it, but we want a Cup run and that is something that could make a big, big difference to this club. This club has a tradition in the FA Cup and we hope to do that justice. It is a great competition and you always want to be involved in the next draw.”
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.