Barnsley are on the cusp of securing an immediate return to the Championship, after climbing into the automatic promotion places in League One by virtue of a 3-0 victory at Southend United on Saturday.
The Tykes were reduced to ten-men when Jacob Brown was dismissed for a rash knee-high tackle on Sam Mantom just before the break. His dismissal left Barnsley with a mountain to climb, but they “passed a test of character,” as manager Daniel Stendel proclaimed, to retain their two-point cushion above third-place Sunderland.
One of the most impressive facets this season has been their exceptional defensive record. They have conceded fewer than any other team in League One thus far and have earned the joint-highest amount of clean sheets (16) alongside league leaders Luton Town and Blackpool.
Although Barnsley failed to win their previous two matches heading into last Saturday’s clash against Southend United, they were able to rely on their solid defence to earn two valuable points out of a possible six to extend their unbeaten run in League One to fourteen matches.
Barnsley then returned to winning ways by virtue of a classic second half performance. They were courageous, rampant and ruthless and Southend were unable to contend with their quick counter-attacking play.
Former Norwich City midfielder Cameron McGeehan broke the deadlock on 50 minutes and set the tone for the remainder of the second half. Cauley Woodrow bagged his eleventh league goal of the season to double their advantage and their January signing from Yeovil Town, Jordan Green, opened his account for Barnsley to guarantee the three points in stoppage time.
It was a satisfying victory for The Reds, who dominated for the majority of the match and showed great character to combat their numerical disadvantage. However, the defence shone once again when called upon, and Ethan Pinnock was undoubtedly the star performer at the back.
The Tough Route to Prosperity
Pinnock has taken an untraditional route into professional football, but it placed him in good stead to develop in the Football League. His experiences in non-league football prepared him for the strong mentality required to succeed at a higher level and his experiences of adversity would’ve spurred him onto prove his doubters wrong.
He first experienced failure during his youth career when Championship club Millwall released him as a teenager. Pinnock subsequently joined Dulwich Hamlet and impressed whilst representing their youth team.
Therefore, Pinnock’s introduction into the first team was accelerated and he was given his debut in August 2010. He would prove to be an influential component at the heart of defence and even scored in a 2-0 victory away at Walton & Hersham on the final day of the season to guide Dulwich Hamlet into the Isthmian League Division One South play-offs.
Dulwich Hamlet came agonisingly close to securing promotion, but Leatherhead recovered from a two-goal deficit to win 4-3 after extra-time in an entertaining seven-goal thriller. They reached the play-offs once again at the end of the 2011/12 season, but Pinnock was on the losing side as Dulwich Hamlet fell at the final hurdle against Bognor Regis Town.
If you fail, try, try and try again! This served Dulwich Hamlet and Ethan Pinnock well as they made it third time lucky by winning the league title at the end of the 2012/13 season. It was another hard fought battle, but they prevailed with a slender one-point lead over Maidstone United.
Dulwich Hamlet made an immediate impression in the seventh-tier of English football, but narrowly missed out on the play-offs in 2014. Pinnock was named club captain for his final two seasons at the club and earned a reputation for scoring from set pieces with seven goals in 50 appearances during the 2015/16 season.
After spending six years in South London, Pinnock took a huge step towards the Football League by transferring to promotion contenders Forest Green in June 2016. He seamlessly slotted into their defence and played an influential role in guiding them into League Two via the National League play-offs.
The Championship Dream
After playing over 200 matches for Dulwich Hamlet and inspiring Forest Green Rovers to promotion, Barnsley swooped for his services in the summer of 2017, signing him on a three-year deal.
However, Pinnock had to be patient during his debut season at Oakwell. He featured in just 45 minutes of the opening 21 league fixtures and received much of his playing time in the two League Cup victories against Morecambe FC and Derby County respectively.
Manager Jose Morais gave him more first team opportunities during the festive period and Pinnock seized the moment by scoring in consecutive matches against Reading and Sunderland respectively.
Despite his promising form, Pinnock was dropped following a 3-1 defeat against Aston Vila on 20 January 2018 and only made a further four appearances in the 2017/18 campaign. Barnsley subsequently succumbed to relegation but Pinnock has established himself as a first team regular in League One.
His former Forest Green Rovers boss Mark Cooper believes Pinnock is “destined for the Premier League,” and selling him to a stronger club gave him more of an opportunity to develop as a player.
Barnsley are currently in a healthy position to make an immediate return to the Championship. As previously mentioned, they’re unbeaten in their last fifteen league matches and the defence has been one of the most impressive aspects of their game.
Pinnock is a courageous warrior in the heart of defence and he utilizes his imposing physique and stature to intimidate his opposition. But despite his physical qualities, Pinnock is also calculated in his decision-making and makes numerous crucial interceptions to foil his opponents.
At 25 years of age, the career of Ethan Pinnock is still very young and a potential move to Brentford was rebuffed in the January transfer window. He’s making quite the impression in League One and the future looks extremely bright for The Tykes’ rock at the back!