A look at Barnsley's final eight matches of the season as they battle against relegation from the Championship.
READING, H, APRIL 2
Nothing less than a win will realistically suffice for Barnsley but, if they can defeat the fourth-bottom Royals, they will only be two points behind with seven games remaining and the race for survival will be well and truly on.
The atmosphere may be stoked up by a decent-sized away following as well as a home crowd who will just have been introduced to about 15 of their former players including the likes of Danny Wilson and Mick McCarthy as part of the club's 'alumni' project.
There is set to be more exciting and nostalgic off-the-pitch news before kick-off but, ultimately, the mood will be dictated by what happens in the game.
Barnsley have taken 14 points from their last nine games – double the tally of the previous 29 – but they have also only won one of their last five matches.
Their last five home matches have brought wins over QPR, Middlesbrough and Bristol City as well as draws with Stoke and leaders Fulham who scored late equalisers. Their home form is likely to be the bedrock of any survival bid, but it must start with a win in this game.
Reading, now managed by Paul Ince, have won just three of their last 19 league games but one of those victories was their most recent match against sixth-placed Blackburn Rovers, having held second-placed Bournemouth to a draw earlier that week.
Peterborough and Derby County – who host Middlesbrough and Preston respectively on Saturday – will be surely cheering Barnsley on as a Reading win will pretty much mean the bottom three stays the same all season.
MILLWALL, A, APRIL 9
Barnsley will hope to be full of confidence from a vital victory over Reading by the time they travel to London for another of their great challenges – improving a dismal away record.
The Reds have the fewest points on their travels in the EFL, with seven from 19 games, but they do have a good record at Millwall. They have won seven of their last 13 league games at the London club and are unbeaten in four with three wins.
The Lions are four points outside the play-offs and currently have the fourth best home record in the division, having collected 36 points from 19 games at The New Den.
Millwall’s fixtures have produced the fewest goals in the division this season as they are the lowest scorers outside the bottom five but have the fourth best defensive record.
They had been one of the form teams in the division, unbeaten in eight with six wins, before a 2-0 loss at their manager Gary Rowett’s former club Stoke before the break – ending a run of five consecutive clean sheets.
Barnsley’s 1-0 loss at home to the Lions on October 2 could be a key moment in the season as they decided not to sack Markus Schopp despite him being booed off by fans and criticised by Callum Brittain in the media. They kept him for another month, losing valuable ground before appointing Poya Asbaghi who has, after a bad start, fared much better.
OTHER FIXTURES THAT DAY: Reading v Cardiff; Swansea v Derby; Bristol City v Peterborough.
SWANSEA CITY, A, APRIL 15
The last time they went to the Liberty Stadium, the Reds suffered a very narrow defeat in the play-off semi-finals.
Amid the pain of coming so close to the Premier League, there was a general feeling that regular relegation battles should be a thing of the past. That theory was obliterated over the calamitous summer that followed.
The Good Friday journey to South Wales following the trip to Millwall will mean the Reds – and the diehard fans who follow them – will have travelled almost 900 miles in a week.
There could not be a bigger contrast in styles in Barnsley’s next two away games. They go from Millwall – who are direct and have won the most headers in the division – to Swansea who top the tables for pass completion, possession and most passes. But in the table that matters, the Welsh club are marooned in 16th, 20 points clear of the relegation zone and 13 off the top six.
The reverse fixture was Poya Asbaghi’s first home game when Barnsley produced an ultra-defensive performance and were beaten 2-0.
Swansea could play a key role in the relegation battle as they will have played Derby the previous weekend then visit Reading on Easter Monday.
OTHER FIXTURES THAT DAY: Sheffield United v Reading; Derby v Fulham; Peterborough v Blackburn.
PETERBOROUGH UNITED, H, APRIL 18
This Easter Monday relegation six-pointer will bring a return of some familiar faces.
Grant McCann, the former Reds midfielder, has already won at Oakwell this season in November as manager of Hull City, who sacked him in January before he returned for a second spell with Posh.
He recently added his former Oakwell club-mate Dale Tonge to his staff, with the Goldthorpe man having been Reds assistant coach in 2019, working with many of the current team.
This is likely to be a blood-and-thunder six-pointer between the two sides who have made the most tackles in the Championship this season. But Barnsley and Posh have been the two worst sides in the division, up to this point at least. They have six wins each from 38 games, the joint fewest by four, while the gap from them both to the rest would be in double figures if not for Reading and Derby’s points deductions.
But they may argue they are operating on comparatively small budgets and teams should be punished, perhaps even more harshly, for breaching the rules.
Only League One strugglers Morecambe, in English professional football, have conceded more than the 76 league goals Peterborough have shipped this season, while they have let in 50 of them away from home.
They had not won a league game in 99 days – collecting four points from 15 matches – before a 3-1 success at QPR in their last fixture which moved them to within a place and two points of Barnsley.
A simply must-win match for the both clubs.
OTHER FIXTURES THAT DAY: Reading v Swansea; QPR v Derby.
HUDDERSFIELD TOWN, A, APRIL 22
This short trip to the John Smith’s Stadium – now rearranged for a Friday night on Sky – comes two days shy of a year since Barnsley’s 1-0 victory there, courtesy of Daryl Dike’s overhead kick, in the week they secured a play-off place. That is still their second most recent away victory, having played 23 times on the road since.
Huddersfield is also the scene of Barnsley’s ‘great escape’ in 2013 and they will look to write new history there with a Yorkshire derby victory.
They will have to be much better than in the FA Cup in early February when they lost 1-0 in one of several lacklustre displays before they found some form. The fourth-placed Terriers are in a promotion scrap, in a mirror image of last season when they were in a relegation fight and Barnsley were pushing for the top flight.
OTHER FIXTURES THE NEXT DAY: Hull v Reading; Derby v Bristol City; Peterborough v Nottingham Forest.
BLACKPOOL, H, APRIL 26
This will be a game in hand for Barnsley, with Reading due to play an extra game on Tuesday.
The Reds had to cancel this match in January due to a Covid outbreak and it has been rearranged for a Tuesday evening.
Blackpool – with former Reds chief executive Ben Mansford at the helm – are thought to have a comparable budget to Barnsley who they have outperformed this season to an embarrassing extent.
The Tangerines have a tiny chance of finishing in the play-offs as they are nine points off the top six in 13th but with at least one game in hand on most of the sides above them.
They would need to win almost every match to finish in the top six. Even if they fall short, it has been an excellent first season back in the Championship for last May’s League One play-off final winners.
Given a major issue has been Barnsley’s lack of experienced central midfield signings this season, it would be humiliating should 28-year-old Kenny Dougall, who they released, stop them winning this game.
Barnsley took a large away following to the seaside in September but were poor in a 1-0 defeat, the first of seven successive losses which cost Markus Schopp his job.
This game will be a quarter of a century to the day since Barnsley were promoted to the Premiership.
PRESTON NORTH END, H, APRIL 30
The ‘lap of honour’ after this final home game of the season could either be an awkward and guilty trudge of a relegated side – knowing the next competitive fixture at Oakwell will be a League One game – or a defiant send-off before the finale at West Brom with all to play for.
Preston are 14th, ten points off the play-offs with eight games left, so will very likely have nothing to play for by the time of this fixture.
They have former Barnsley centre-back Bambo Diaby who was released after failing a drugs test.
OTHER FIXTURES THAT DAY: Reading v West Brom; Blackpool v Derby; Millwall v Peterborough.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION, A, MAY 7
If there is anything riding on this match, there will be no shortage of narrative given the number of Barnsley staff who moved to the Hawthorns last summer.
Coaches Valerien Ismael and Adam Murray were sacked in February, after Albion sank into mid-table following a promising start. They were appointed by Turkish giants Besiktas this week.
But former Reds captain Alex Mowatt and star striker Daryl Dike – who Ismael brought in in January – remain at the West Midlands club. Steve Bruce replaced Ismael and still has a slim chance of taking the Baggies into the play-offs, but they would have to win nearly every match so are likely to have nothing to play for in this final game.
OTHER FIXTURES THAT DAY: Luton v Reading; Derby v Cardiff; Peterborough v Blackpool.