BARNSLEY expect a ‘massive challenge’ when they visit Accrington Stanley for their Boxing Day fixture on Monday from 3pm.

Stanley are 19th in the League One table, a point above safety, while the Reds are fourth following five successive league wins.

Accrington have won one in nine in the league, losing six, but collected four points from their last two.

Due to postponements, they have not played in the league since December 3 – playing just one EFL Trophy match in that time.

They are unbeaten in five in all competitions with four wins, but three of them were in cup games.

Assistant coach Martin Paterson said: “We watched them in the trophy at Burton. We’re fully aware of what they are and how well they have done.

“They are in good form, five unbeaten in all competitions. When we watch them live we can see how difficult it is to play against them, especially at their home.

“It’s a real tough test. Our last games mean very little when we go there.

“They are combative and have threats from their attackers and set plays.

“They defend very aggressively.

“They haven’t played in the league for a few weeks so they will be fresh which makes it even more difficult.”

Stanley have not won at home in the league since beating fellow strugglers Morecambe on October 1, after which they have collected only a point from four league matches there. They have won just two of ten home games this season and their total of ten points on their own turf is the fourth lowest.

Barnsley have won five of their last seven away league games and have the third most away points in League One with 17 from ten games.

They are expected to take almost 2,000 fans to the Lancashire club who have one of the lowest average attendances in League One, with only Forest Green getting smaller crowds than their 3,200 average.

Paterson said: “We have fantastic support. It’s an added little percentage for us. I remember at Shrewsbury the fans were excellent and got us over the line. We are really thankful.”

Stanley boss John Coleman is the third longest-serving manager in English professional football, behind Harrogate’s Simon Weaver and Wycombe’s Gareth Ainsworth. He has been in charge for eight years, having been previously in charge for 13 years before brief spells at Rochdale, Southport and Sligo Rovers.

Coleman took Stanley into the Football League in 2006 after more than four decades away then led them into League One in 2018.

Paterson said: “He’s a very experienced manager. You can’t buy that experience.

“As someone who is just beginning in coaching, you have ultimate respect for someone who has been in the game for such a lengthy period.

“We respect him and his team and expect a massive challenge.”

The Reds are unbeaten on Boxing Day since 2014 when they lost 1-0 at Preston North End. Barnsley midfielder Adam Phillips played 22 games on loan to Accrington from Burnley last year.

Since Accrington folded in the 1960s, their only meetings with Barnsley were two 2-0 defeats in the 2018/19 season.

Cauley Woodrow and Kieffer Moore netted away, with Dimitri Cavare and an own goal securing the home win.

Previously, the Reds met the old club 12 times, winning eight and losing four.