Barnsley cannot afford to drop their intensity for Sunday’s ‘banana skin’ FA Cup trip to League Two promotion-chasers Crewe Alexandra, says Stephen Foster.

The former centre-back played 242 games for Crewe between 1997 and 2006 then 244 for the Reds from 2007 to 2013.  The Railwaymen are currently third in the fourth division and Foster believes they will test Barnsley in what he expects to be an entertaining contest in the third round game which is due to kick-off at 2.01pm at Gresty Road. 

Foster, who reached the FA Cup semi-final with the Reds in 2008, told the Chronicle: “It’s a real banana skin for Barnsley and they can’t afford any complacency. Crewe are capable of beating most teams on their day at Gresty Road. The type of football they play would work at a higher level. It’s always interesting when two of your former clubs get drawn together, especially in the FA Cup. 

“It should be a good game, with both sides in relatively good form. Both sides are similar because they are young, they play good football and they are better going forward than they are defensively. It will be a big test for Barnsley.”

Crewe will be looking to become the second League Two club to shock Barnsley this season after Carlisle United won 3-0 at Oakwell in the League Cup in August. Alexandra won 4-1 at home to Carlisle on Wednesday with all their goals coming between 17 and 34 minutes. They have lost only one of their last nine games, and only one of their last ten at home. They are the top-scorers in League Two with 46 goals in 24 games.  David Artell, the former Crewe player, was given his first manager’s job in January 2017 after ex-Red Steve Davis left the club. To reach the third round, they won at League One Accrington Stanley then defeated non-league Eastleigh in a replay.

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Foster said: “Crewe have come through a really difficult couple of years and it’s good to see them at the top end of the table. Their success revolves around how good a crop of youngsters they have coming through and they have some real talent in this team, with some experienced players alongside them. As for Barnsley, it is good to see them getting better.  They had been playing well without the results for a while but now they seem to be getting a few more points. They’ve given themselves a chance.” 

Foster was part of the Barnsley side in 2012/2013 which was seven points adrift of safety before surviving on the final day at Huddersfield Town.  That season was the last time the Reds made it past the third round of the FA Cup as they beat Burnley, Hull City and MK Dons before losing 5-0 at Manchester City in the last 16. Foster said the cup wins helped the league form, adding: “Momentum is that magic word. Winning a game in any competition always helps and, in the FA Cup, it’s a double whammy because it’s such a big competition and you could draw a really big team.” 

Foster was always one of the older and more experienced players in the Reds’ defence. Barnsley’s current four first team centre-backs were signed in the summer aged either 20 or 21, as the club collected one of their youngest ever sides. He said: “It’s unheard-of to have such a young squad, especially in the Championship. Barnsley fans, probably more than any other fans, will be patient with them.  The young centre-backs will still be getting used to the Championship and the movement of the strikers. The more games you play, the better you get.  The difference between the leagues they have come from and the Championship is that you can’t afford to drop your concentration for a second.” 

All third round matches kick off a minute late as part of the FA’s ‘Heads Up’ mental health campaign. Should the match be drawn, there will be a replay at Oakwell.  The fourth round draw is due to take place on Monday from 7pm on BBC One.