Barnsley will look to end local rivals Sheffield Wednesday’s 23-game unbeaten run in a South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell from 8pm on Tuesday which could be played in front of one of the biggest crowds there in years.
Wednesday are top of League One by a point. The Reds are fourth, nine points behind the Owls and eight off second-placed Plymouth Argyle who have played two extra games.
The Reds won 1-0 at Wycombe Wanderers on Saturday, extending their unbeaten run to 11 games with nine victories.
Duff told the Chronicle: “I won’t need to motivate the players for this one, in terms of where the teams are in the league and the geography. The Sky cameras are here so if we were playing bottom of the league, they would want to play well. There’s vanity about it because players at this level don’t get lots of opportunities play on TV. We just hope whoever delivers the best performance wins the game, we don’t want any refereeing controversy.”
He added: “For the supporters it’s more than another game. It’s a big game but it’s three points. The process and set up will be the same. There are local bragging rights and we won’t play it down. It’s a full house against local rivals and one of the three teams above us. We want to beat the teams above us and we have done it a few times recently.
“Even if the players are living in a cave and don’t know the significance of the game, they will be able to tell when they turn up with the buzz and hum around the ground.”
The Owls – managed by former Barnsley defender Darren Moore – are unbeaten in 23 league games since October 4, almost six months ago, winning 16 and drawing seven. They have won 11 of their last 13 league games since Boxing Day.
They drew 1-1 at home to Bolton Wanderers on Friday so have had an extra day to prepare for this derby. That result ended a run of five straight wins.
The two South Yorkshire rivals currently have the best defensive records in League One, Wednesday conceding 23 and Barnsley 29.
The Owls have the best away record in the division with 34 points from 16 games on the road, conceding just nine goals which is the joint fewest in English professional football this season with Premier League Newcastle United.
Duff said: “23 games unbeaten is an unbelievable achievement. But hopefully we can end it. They do every part of the game well. They keep clean sheets, they have goals, quality and Championship players.”
Barnsley are the only side to win at Hillsborough this season in the league, impressing in a 2-0 victory to September 3 thanks to goals by Devante Cole and James Norwood.
The Reds will now look to record a first Oakwell win over Wednesday since 2008 when they triumphed 2-1 thanks to goals by Iain Hume and Jamal Campbell-Ryce.
The seven meetings since then have brought four draws and three Wednesday wins.
The last was a 2-1 victory almost exactly two years ago for the Owls, who would be relegated, at the fifth-placed Reds thanks to a brace by former Barnsley youngster Jordan Rhodes.
“It’s very rare that I want to put my boots on but I would have l liked to have played in this game. You could make yourself a hero. If we do the double over them it will be a nice little piece of history.
“We know we’ve been there and won so we can beat them but we’re fully aware that they are half a season unbeaten and we’re going to be up against it.
“We’ve improved since then and they would probably say the same. We went there with not a lot of expectations, there are probably more now.”
The attendance is expected to be one of the largest at Oakwell in recent years, with the home crowds increasing throughout the season. Duff said: “It shows the progress that has been made. We talked about relationship building and knew it would take time.
“Of course the away clubs have brought a lot but the attendances show that the connection and trust is starting to rebuild. It doesn’t guarantee results and performances. But I was told the relationship with the fans had broken down last year and part of our work was to build it back. The attendances tell you that is starting to happen.
“I have played here and it’s been bouncing. But games earlier in the season like Accrington stand out when we were 3-0 up after 20 minutes. The supporters have stepped up recently and so have the players.”
Barnsley will be looking for a sixth successive home win. Duff said: “I think we’ve won ten in 11 at home and the only loss was Bolton when we were killed by an early red card. That gives us confidence but just because we were good last week doesn’t mean we will be good this week.”
Wednesday have former Barnsley players Michael Smith, Jack Hunt and Mallik Wilks. Smith is joint top-scorer with 11 goals.
Barnsley defender Robbie Cundy is back after a knee problem. Duff said: "He comes into the thinking now. He’s not ready to start. You try to plan out as best you can and how you think the game will plan out and how you can impact it from the bench. Robbie is available now and something else to bring to the table."
Duff played Max Watters and James Norwood up front on Saturday but could bring back top-scorer Devante Cole or the match-winner at Wycombe Slobodan Tedic.
On Tedic, Duff said: "Before his injury he was starting. We don’t see him as just a sub. But to be fair to Coley and Nors, who’ve generally been the front two, they’ve been really good. Max did well in training and got a start on Saturday. We have flexibility. It isn’t a case of we won last week so we will play the same team. That would be lazy from us. Boban, Luke Thomas – they are all champing on the bit and they are showing that on the pitch."