BARNSLEY will look to achieve back-to-back home league wins for the first time this season when they host Lee Johnson’s relegation-battling Fleetwood Town from 3pm.
The Reds had lost four out of their last five home league games before their 3-0 success over Shrewsbury Town on Tuesday. Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “It’s great to have back to back home games in a week. Everyone will have enjoyed Tuesday. The players enjoyed it and the fans should have enjoyed watching. It’s a great opportunity to play here again and we want to take it. But there will be a team here trying to disrupt that.”
Fleetwood are 22nd in League One, with 11 points from 13 games – leaving them three adrift in the relegation zone.
Andy Pilley, who had led the club out of non-league to the third tier as chairman, was jailed for 13 years for fraud at the end of last season – then they were tipped by most bookmakers as favourites for relegation.
After drawing the opening game of the season, they then lost the next six which saw manager Scott Brown sacked and replaced by former Reds head coach Johnson who has collected ten points from the last six matches.
This week they lost 1-0 at home to Lincoln City on Saturday then won 2-1 in a basement battle at fellow strugglers Reading on Tuesday, netting a 92nd-minute winner.
They have taken seven points from the last nine available in away league games, winning the last two at bottom two Cheltenham Town and Reading.
Collins said: “Since Lee has been in charge they have won important games. They play attractive football with good attacking players, trying to build-up from the back. They have a big squad and have made a lot of changes from game to game so we will see what they do on Saturday.
“We won’t take them for granted.
“They have players who can hurt us but we need to handle that and we have players who can hurt them.”
Johnson was Barnsley head coach for a year between February 2015 and February 2016, taking charge of 51 games with 20 wins, 13 draws and 18 losses.
He guided them to a mid-table finish in League One in his first campaign then took them to last place in December 2015 before beginning the winning run that would lead to their promotion under his replacement Paul Heckingbottom.
His final game was a penalty shoot-out win at Fleetwood in the second leg of the EFL Trophy Northern Area final which earned the Reds the first of two trips to Wembley that season, the other being the play-off final – with wins in both.
The following day, he completed a move to Bristol City where he spent four years before being sacked.
He then had spells at Sunderland, Hibernian and now Fleetwood.
Johnson has faced Barnsley eight times as a manager, losing one and winning one with Oldham Athletic before joining the Reds then going unbeaten in six meetings as Bristol City boss – with three wins at Ashton Gate and three 2-2 draws at Oakwell, where he has never won as a visiting coach.
Collins said: “He’s a very very experienced manager for someone still quite young. I remember Lee best for the fact that he played for Kilmarnock when they beat Celtic in the League Cup final.
“I need to thank him for that, being a big Kilmarnock fan. He managed here, he knows what to expect and he will prepare his team for that. That definitely makes the game slightly tougher.”
Barnsley will be looking for a seventh successive win over the Cod Army.
After the trophy shoot-out win at Highbury, they returned there two months later to win in the league then did the double over them in the 2018/19 campaign and last season.
Jack Aitchison headed in a 90th-minute winner in the October away fixture then, in the final game of 2022, Robbie Cundy headed home an 86th-minute goal for a 2-1 home victory. They have met ten times, since the first game in 2014, with Barnsley losing two and drawing two of the first four. Fleetwood won 2-1 at Oakwell in February 2015, the result which cost Danny Wilson his job, then returned in October of that year to win 1-0 over Johnson’s side who were partway through an eight-game losing run in league fixtures.
Barnsley striker Devante Cole played 94 games for Fleetwood between 2016 and 2018, scoring 22 goals.