BARNSLEY will look to put more distance between themselves and the chasing pack outside the top six when they host Bristol Rovers from 3pm today.

The Gas are tenth in League One, four places and nine points below the Reds who are in the lowest play-off place and unbeaten in seven home games.

Rovers sacked Joey Barton in October when they were 16th and, after caretaker Andy Mangan won two of his five games, Matt Taylor was appointed on December 1. Taylor, who was sacked by Rotherham United in November after just over a year in charge, returned to the South West following a successful spell with Exeter City who he left early last season. Taylor – who has never managed against the Reds before but played for Penistone Cricket Club while manager of Rotherham – has won three, drawn two and lost two of his seven league games.

Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “It seems like we’ve had Charlton here, Wigan here and now Bristol Rovers and they are all really dangerous. People can be guilty of looking at the league table and not recognising they have a lot of talent.

“Bristol are heading in the right direction under the new manager.

“They have as much talent as most teams in this league.”

Rovers lost their last league game 3-2 at Wycombe Wanderers on New Year’s Day then drew 1-1 at Championship club Norwich City on Saturday in the FA Cup.

Only relegation-battlers Exeter, Carlisle and Reading have conceded more goals away from home this season than the Gas. Collins said: “They were excellent at Norwich and could easily have won.

“They looked a really good side.

“There has been a distinct change under the new manager. He has changed the shape, and seems to be getting players like Luke Thomas, who we know all about, in the right positions.

“Chris Martin is scoring goals and he’s a top top striker at this level.

“They have a good squad and they will be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. They beat Portsmouth and Bolton recently. It will be a challenge but, after a rest, it is one our players should be really looking forward to. We want a 90-minute performance.”

Midfielder Thomas turned down a new contract with Barnsley last summer, following the exit of Michael Duff, to rejoin former loan club Rovers.

Thomas, who played 95 games for the Reds, has been a regular starter for most of this season with five goals in all competitions. He was called an ‘idiotic young boy’ by Barton after allegedly not coming off with an injury in a loss at Peterborough with fans turning on the manager who did not play Thomas for his last month in charge.

Thomas was a star player when the Reds visited the Memorial Ground for their second league game of this season.

After taking an early lead through Nicky Cadden, Barnsley were dominated for the remainder of the game but scraped a 1-1 draw.

The two clubs have met 35 times, winning 12 each. Barnsley’s only defeat in the last nine meetings since 1991 was in Bristol on the final day of the 2018/19 season when they were already promoted.

This fixture last season brought a 3-0 August win for the Reds thanks to goals by Devante Cole, Jordan Williams and Josh Benson. Rovers have lost their last four games at Oakwell, since a win in November 1991 – being beaten in 1993, 1999 in the FA Cup, 2018 and 2022.