DARREN Barnard scored the last time Barnsley beat Reading at Oakwell and hopes Reds defeat his local club again tomorrow.

Barnard netted a free-kick in a 3-0 League Cup win over the Royals, whom he had played for earlier in his career, in 1998 – with the Berkshire club unbeaten in nine games at Oakwell since then.

The third-bottom Reds now host the fourth-bottom Royals, hoping to cut the five-point gap between them.

Barnard, who played 204 Barnsley games between 1997 and 2002, told the Chronicle: “I can’t remember much about the game to be honest.

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“I had to look up the match report on Reading’s website.

“But I think scoring free-kicks was something the fans were quite used to seeing me do at that time.

“It’s nice to know you were part of the last team to beat them but the fact it was more than 20 years ago is not great for Barnsley so hopefully they put that right on Saturday.

“It’s a huge game.

“Both clubs are down there.

“Barnsley have been in good form recently but it still doesn’t look good for them.

“If they get three points against Reading they can drag themselves back into it.

“It’s not about how well you play, it’s just about the win.”

Barnard was at Barnsley for the 2000 play-off final then relegation to the third tier in 2002.

This time they have gone from fifth last season to five points from safety with eight games left.

“Losing the manager (Valerien Ismael) was a big blow.

“He had a particular style and fans probably wouldn’t have been entertained by it but it was effective and he got the best out of what he had.

“They lost the captain (Alex Mowatt) and the experienced head at the back in (Michael) Sollbauer.

“Then Cauley Woodrow hasn’t played since Christmas.

“These are massive losses for the team.

“There are factors to explain why it has happened but you wouldn’t expect a fall from grace like that with pretty much the same squad.

“It’s disappointing but I think it’s one of the hardest leagues in the world and, if you don’t perform, things go wrong very quickly.

“I experienced relegation a couple of times with Barnsley and it wasn’t nice.

“It’s a great set of fans who are very passionate and loyal so you don’t want to let them down.

“They don’t want relegation, and League One is very hard to get out of.”

Barnard lives close to the Royals.

He said: “Reading is about 20 minutes from where I live.

“It’s the closest professional team to me now.

“I had a very brief stint on loan there from Chelsea at the start of my career and I go to see them play every now and again.

“I know some Reading fans and they are not particular happy at the moment, like Barnsley fans.

“We’ll be supporting Barnsley, of course.”

Barnard was due to attend with his two youngest sons, as part of the launch of Barnsley’s alumni project – listing all the 1,376 former Reds players.

But Covid cases in his family mean he cannot go.

He said: “I am devastated because I was really looking forward to it.

“I don’t get up that often nowadays and my two youngest boys were born after my stint at Barnsley.

“Hopefully we will get up there in the near future.

“I understand there are quite a few ex players going.

“It’s great for the club to recognise their former players and I am very proud to be one of them.

“It’s important to look to the future but also to recognise the past and what’s been achieved previously.”