Tykes must keep focus on league

Sunday 24th February 2013 17:40

David Flitcroft: Needs to keep squad focused on league form

David Flitcroft: Needs to keep squad focused on league form

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Barnsley FanZoner Christopher Ellison is loving Barnsley's FA Cup run to the quarter-finals - but is wary of it affecting their league form.

Barnsley's league form since the permanent appointment of David Flitcroft, prior to Saturday's disappointing defeat by Bristol City, has been nothing short of sensational.

We were stuck at the bottom of the Championship pile when former boss Keith Hill was sacked on December 29 last year, a position we had not held since returning to the division in 2006.

However since going down 2-1 to Peterborough in Flickers' first game in charge that same team, with the addition of a few loan players, recorded eight wins and just one draw in their next nine games in all competitions, a run which has seen us climb out of the relegation zone and reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time in five years.

The secret to the success is hard to pinpoint and, as quoted by Darren Barnard during the 5-3 loss to Bristol City at the weekend, it is sometimes difficult for a member of staff from an old regime to step in and be successful in their own right.

However Flitcroft seems to have instilled belief and a togetherness in a team which looked so disjointed two months ago, and having witnessed several games this season it is clear that a simple change in formation and playing certain personnel in the correct positions have contributed to the radical change.

While this turnaround in the league is more than welcome to myself and so many fans, I do have one main concern. It isn't the fact we conceded five goals from set-pieces at Ashton Gate because I know we are now scoring goals and that will be rectified; it is rather the fact that the FA Cup could be an unwanted distraction that we have all seen before.

Don't get me wrong I wouldn't swap this cup run for a gold pig and can't wait to see how we fair against the English champions in Manchester City. I am just merely reminding people of that excellent 2007/08 cup run when we reached Wembley for the first time since May 2000.

The triumphs against Liverpool away in the fifth round and the 1-0 win against Chelsea in the quarters were amazing and will live long in the memories of all Reds fans. However, that season under Simon Davey we weren't in any particular danger until we became giantkillers. Due to our cup exploits our league form suffered dramatically and in the weeks leading up to Wembley we got embroiled in a relegation dogfight.

This was put down by a lot of fans to a committed focus on Wembley, and while it is completely understandable for a Championship club who have never won at the national stadium to get excitable about the prospect of playing for a chance to lift one of domestic football's most coveted trophies, the league is our bread and butter and must not play second fiddle.

Flickers' reaction to the cup competition after the 3-1 victory at MK Dons only reinforced my point of view. He claims that Bradford City's heroics in the Capital One Cup this season, with the Bantams of League Two reaching the final at Wembley, have inspired his charges to repeat the feat. Speaking to the BBC before that final he said: "Bradford's cup run has been very inspirational to my group. I have been inspired by Bradford and I am trying to make new heroes at this club.

"We're in the last eight of a competition I absolutely love. This competition is about families to me and I'm trying to build a family here we can be proud about."

Thankfully, as all Tykes fans are aware, we did end up surviving that year. After losing in that semi-final to Cardiff City we managed to pick up back-to-back away wins at Watford and at Preston and eventually secured our league status with one game to spare courtesy of a 3-0 win over Charlton.

That season we finished in 18th place on 55 points, Leicester went down on 52 - that is how close we ran ourselves in the end.

This campaign is different in the way that we are already in a scrap at the bottom. However with 13 games remaining there are only seven points separating us from a place in the top half so a few more wins and we could be looking a lot healthier.

The only thing is we are the only team left in the FA Cup from the bottom end of the table and while in one sense it's good because we can observe the teams' results around us and gain a game or two in hand, on the other hand I worry that the defeat down in Bristol was partly because they have one eye yet again on the game against City.

If, somehow, we pull off a miracle match against Roberto Mancini's men and reach the London showpiece I fear we will again let our guard slip in a repeat of five years ago and undo all the hard work we have achieved in recent weeks.

Having said that I do feel that our current squad, with the likes of in-form Daggers and super-sub Scotland, is more capable of seeing out the season and making sure we are in this league next season.

More importantly, in my humble opinion, they also have the ability to be a force to be reckoned with next season.

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