An FA Cup exit away at a useful Championship opponent wasn’t a disaster but was still tinged with disappointment.
While we may not have the illustrious history of our nearest and dearest in this competition, we have, along the way, triggered some pretty damn good FA Cup memories.
We only have to cast the mind back eleven months for one of the biggies, so I’m never quite as at ease as some when it comes to dismissing our FA Cup exit as one of those things. As others have said, being a football supporter is not just about winning trophies – as welcome as they are when they very occasionally come along – but it is also about those moments and memories.
Those moments are why we do it and the FA Cup is special and unique in the way it produces them, albeit they are only made really special by the noise and colour of a crowd.
So, for me anyway, whatever the perceived benefits of being left to concentrate on our number one priority, it was still a little bit disappointing to lose, albeit to a Barnsley team who thoroughly deserved it and who were excellent on the day.
As it transpired, Barnsley coach Valerien Ismael went with what was pretty much his full-strength side, and it showed against a City team that included several who are still feeling their way back to fitness after long layoffs.
An attacking midfield three of Onel Hernandez, Kieran Dowell and Przemysław Placheta was never going to have the same impact as one that includes Todd Cantwell and Emi Buendia, and any midfield shield that doesn’t include Ollie Skipp is a downgrade.
And so it came to pass.
Barnsley executed their high-energy, high press to perfection and on a less-than-perfect surface, City were simply unable to get out. Any lingering hopes that Barnsley would be unable to maintain that level for the full 90 were dashed when, deep into the second period, they were still forcing Ben Gibson and Grant Hanley into rushed and wayward passes.
If Wednesday night was Farkeball 3.0 at its best, yesterday afternoon was a classic example of when Farkeball goes wrong.
With neither Alex Tettey nor Lukas Rupp confident enough in their own ability to drop between the centre-backs and offer an extra option for Gibson, Hanley or Tim Krul, the back-four were left to toil with sideways passes that merely passed the responsibility of breaking the press to someone else.
With Barnsley closing off every avenue it made, for the first time in a while, for some fairly unedifying viewing. On the day, Ismael called it right, Farke called it wrong.
On a surface of that ilk there was no advantage whatsoever in having 71 per cent of the possession, especially when the majority of it was in your own half, and through just having 29 per cent, the Tykes were infinitely more dangerous.
It felt like 90 minutes of Barnsley traps being just avoided by City. Just. But on the plus side, the 16 shots or headers that Krul was forced to save will have sharpened him up nicely after his spell on the sidelines.
In complete contrast to the midweek win over Bristol City, there were bad days at the office across the board, and those players who’d hoped to use the chance to force themselves into Farke’s thoughts were left ruing a wasted opportunity.
But it’s important not to throw anyone under the bus. We didn’t get here by doing that and it wasn’t just the returnees who struggled on the Oakwell potato patch. Rupp and Hernandez will have benefitted massively from getting some game time in their legs, as will Dowell as he still strives for match fitness after his second op of the season.
Placheta is another who suffered some online criticism for his performance but when he arrived we were warned he’s an un[polish]ed diamond. That his decision-making isn’t always on point is to be expected and I’d even go as far as to say he’s probably surpassed expectations at this stage.
That’s not say he shouldn’t have buried City’s best chance of the game when one-on-one with Bradley Collins because he should. For all of Barnsley’s efforts on goal, Placheta’s was arguably the best chance of the game and was proof that even on the bad days the margins remain fine.
Potentially, the loss of Jordan Hugill for a spell with what looked for all the world like a pulled hamstring could be more damaging than the defeat itself. With Teemu Pukki still struggling with that side strain, Adam Idah yet to kick a ball in anger and even emergency-striker-Stiepermann still unavailable, this has presented Farke and Stuart Webber with a conundrum.
For all his youthful exuberance and undoubted talent, it looks too soon to give a start to Tyrese Omotoye and so, maybe, the (expensive) loan market will have to be an option. What occurs in the treatment rooms of Colney and in the Webber office in the next few days may well be key to how this season unfolds.
So – no point in sugar-coating it – it was a poor effort in South Yorkshire. An underwhelming afternoon but one that was a rarity and has plenty of mitigation points should we wish to deploy them.
But let’s not. Let’s take it on the chin and admit that on the day Barnsley were better than us and were more deserving of a crack at Chelsea or Luton.
And besides, there’s always someone worse off than yourself. 😉