Four talking points from Rovers’ defeat at Barnsley.


Rovers have now lost each of their last three Championship fixtures, both this season, but also at Oakwell.

An historic ground packed with history, but one that doesn’t evoke great recent memories for Rovers. But for a late Adam Armstrong goal it would have been three successive 2-0 wins for the Tykes.

The first of those was back on Boxing Day 2016, Darragh Lenihan’s late red card compounding a bad afternoon for Owen Coyle’s Rovers, a fourth successive defeat leaving them in the relegation zone at the halfway stage of the season. They would end it there as well.

The atmosphere that afternoon was toxic, fans rushing to the front of the away stand, situated next to the tunnel, to make their feelings known towards the manager, but also the players as they left the field at full time.

The reaction this time came via social media, with games continuing to be played behind closed doors. Has that heightened and intensified the reaction to a poor result or performance?

Project Restart was just three games in when Rovers were beaten 2-0 by an improving Barnsley side trying to fend off relegation, a result which put a real dent in Rovers’ play-off hopes. Fast forward seven months and this feels more than that, their top six chances evaporating before their eyes.

Rovers are in a very different place to what they were back in 2016, both on the pitch, and off it, largely owing to the work of Mowbray and what he’s brought to the club. The very stability fans craved for so long he has brought, the manager will next week mark four years in the job.

Yet there is no getting away from the fact that Rovers have lost more games than they’ve won, sit as near to the side fourth bottom as they do the top six. Their current points per game would take them to 62, in between their tally in 2018/19 and last season, while replicating their form from the last 17 in their remaining 17 would leave them with 63 points, exactly the same number as 2020/21.



We have become used to seeing changes to the side, tweaks to the formation, but this felt like the biggest shift yet as Rovers went with a back three for the first time this season, Taylor Harwood-Bellis, Elliott Bennett and Stewart Downing, the three players brought in, making their first, second and third starts of the season respectively.

There was no Ryan Nyambe in the matchday squad, and no injury either, seemingly the fall guy from the back-to-back defeats to QPR and Preston North End.

Mowbray explained his decision to switch approach was down to Barnsley’s style of play. It was a shift away from the identity he has looked to create, and while Barnsley were below them in the table ahead of kick-off, it was understandable given the way they had pressed high-flying Brentford off the pitch three days earlier.

This didn’t feel a night, not least because of the pitch, to be playing six yard passes around your back four, yet equally, despite bringing Downing into the side, there was no play through midfield whatsoever.

The goal Rovers did score, albeit a consolation, was from a ball in behind, and the space Barnsley were allowing gave you the feeling Rovers had a chance of getting in.

Mowbray alluded to it post-match, a game of this fashion, played out as it did, is one you have to win. He clearly felt the game-plan was working, not making changes until after Barnsley scored.

But Mowbray appreciated that coming out on the wrong side of a game that plays out how that one did, so devoid of quality, makes it tougher to stomach.

For the third game running, they were edged out by the odd goal, having seen the previous two go in their favour.



Adam Armstrong’s goal may have been a late consolation, but it’s now three in his last four games and 20 for the season, 19 of those in the Championship.

Like most questions relating to Rovers recent goalscoring records, the last man to score more in a single season was Jordan Rhodes, though he did finish behind Rudy Gestede in the scoring charts in 2014/15.

It is now 34 goals in 58 games stretching back to his matchwinner against Derby in December 2019 for Armstrong, and in that time he has only missed one game, testament to his fitness, form and attitude.

He toiled away here, chasing so many lost causes into the corner, one seeing him crash into the advertising hoardings, but quickly to his feet and back on the pitch.

Armstrong managed just 24 touches, but got through plenty more running, and came up with the finish when the one chance he got presented itself to him.

He’s now on 56 goals for the club, one behind Danny Graham, while the 22 and 21 scored by Gestede and Rhodes respectively in 2014/15 are well within his sights.

Rhodes managed 25 in 2013/14 and 28 the year before, beat that and he’ll be in Shearer territory.

Harvey Elliott created the goal for Armstrong, his ninth assist, the joint-most in the division.



Rovers’ approach, and the conditions, meant it was a roll your sleeves up and battle kind of evening.

They won a lot of headers (50), plenty of tackles (18) and got through plenty of running, though heads did drop as the game went away from them in the closing stages.

Bennett was back in the side, but not as captain, Lenihan keeping hold of the armband and he was a vocal presence in the centre of a back three, with two teenagers either side, clear instructions issued not least from wide free kicks.

With Bennett on the right, he too brought with him experience and presence and while it wasn’t Bradley Dack’s night in terms of flicks and silky skills coming off, he really did put himself about, a not afraid to dish out a rollocking or two.

There were some good performances in there, Lenihan was strong at the back and Barry Douglas put in another solid display at left wing back. However, it did seem very much like a defensive unit and then a front three left to fend for themselves in attack, with Rovers having now scored just nine goals in their last 11 games.

Again, when chasing the game, it all felt very frantic with substitutes thrown on, and finding a way of getting back into games when conceding first holds this team back.

They have scored first in just 11 of their 29 league games, but taken 31 points when doing so. In the 16 times they have conceded first, they have come back to take six points, while it’s now just two first half goals in the last 15 matches.