MICHAEL Duff is expecting a ‘different feel’ to Oakwell tomorrow when Barnsley host promotion rivals Derby County from 3pm.
The Rams are fifth, one place and one point ahead of the Reds who have a game in hand.
Derby are expected to bring around 5,000 fans so the attendance is likely to be the biggest of the season so far.
Head coach Duff told the Chronicle: “You want to play in big games. There will be a different feel to the game. The players will sense it when they drive into the ground. There is a different noise and buzz. It is almost a tribal ‘us against them’. The players feed off that energy.
“We just want to give the supporters a performance they can be proud of so they keep coming for the rest of the big games.”
Barnsley have lost two of their last 15 league games and Derby one of 18.
County are now under former Rotherham United manager Paul Warne.
Duff said: “Every part of the club (Derby) is at least a Championship club apart from the league they play in.
“It’s a tough challenge but there are few of them in this league.
“The four teams in the play-offs are all ex-Premier League. We know about the size of Derby and a lot has been made of the support they are bringing.
“They are a typical Paul Warne team. They put you under pressure and get after you. They are known for being fit and pressing. They have lost one since October which shows the challenge we’ve got. But we’ve lost two since October. It’s two in-form teams, fifth against sixth and we’re really looking forward to it.
“It’s not a cup final. If we lose it’s not the end of the season. But, if we win, we go above them.”
The Rams are likely to start former Barnsley captain Conor Hourihane as well as ex-Reds loanees Joe Wildsmith and Korey Smith.
This will be the 76th meeting of the two clubs. Barnsley have won 22, drawn 17 and lost 37, including the last three meetings. The Reds have visited Pride Park twice this season, losing 2-1 in the league in August and 3-0 in the FA Cup in January.
Duff said: “I don’t think we deserved to get beat in the league game down there and I don’t think it was a 3-0 game in the FA Cup. But those games are gone and it’s a fresh challenge now.
“Our team has changed quite a bit since the cup game. We went 1-0 down because Matty Wolfe had a moment of madness and tried to punch the ball.
“I think it will be a completely different type of football match.”
Derby’s last win at Oakwell was in December 2017 when Paul Heckingbottom’s Reds went down 3-0 – a fifth successive Championship defeat.
Since then, they drew 2-2 in 2019 when Adam Murray was Reds caretakeer, with Cauley Woodrow netting a 94th minute goal, then 0-0 in 2021 which ended a seven-match winning run for Valerien Ismael’s side.
Barnsley won 2-1 at home in November last season, with goals by Victor Adeboyejo and Aaron Leya Iseka after the Rams took the lead.
They lost the reverse fixture 2-0 on March 5 – almost a year ago – and both clubs were relegated.
For this match, Barnsley FC will link up with Barnsley Hospice with activities planned throughout the day.