Barnsley will be looking to take advantage of their game in hand at home to second-bottom Carlisle United from 7.45pm tomorrow.
The Reds are sixth – in the play-off places on goal difference – following a 2-1 win at home to Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
They are unbeaten in nine league games and have not lost at home in eight matches since September. Luca Connell and Jamie McCart 'have a chance' of returning from injury.
This match is the only League One game this midweek after it was postponed from November due to international call-ups for Barnsley, so the Reds have a chance to make up ground on all clubs around them.
A win would take them up to fifth while they could halve the six-point gap to the top two.
Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “It’s great when you say ‘it’s alright because we have games in hand’ then they come around and you have to win them. It’s come at a good time for us. You look across the league and teams have busy schedules with cup replays and postponements. We want to take care of business and take a step closer to where we want to be.”
The Cumbrians, who won the League Two play-off final in May, are second-bottom, six points off safety – having won four of 27 league games.
Collins said: “Carlisle are really aggressive, they get after you, press, and make you defend a lot. They have good variety in their play. It will be about us trying to impose ourselves on Carlisle. We did that on Saturday in the first half (against Bristol Rovers) but didn’t capitalise enough and hopefully this time we can.”
Manager Paul Simpson returned to his hometown club in February 2022 when they were 23rd in League Two and, after keeping them up, took them to promotion via victory at Wembley.
Carlisle sank to bottom with a nine-game winless run, including six defeats, but moved off the foot of the table when they won 2-1 at home to Port Vale on New Year’s Day having trailed in the 80th minute. They then lost 2-1 at fellow strugglers Exeter City and were beaten 3-1 at home to high-flying Oxford United on Saturday.
Carlisle have the worst away record in the division, with six points from 13 games, and have lost seven of their last eight away games in all competitions. Their only win on the road this season was a shock 3-1 success at high-flying Bolton Wanderers in October.
Is Collins worried about complacency? He said: “Not particularly. I don’t think our players have shown any signs of it. If there is any in games like this, it is subconscious. There shouldn’t be any because Carlisle have shown they can beat anyone and had great results.
“Paul did a fantastic job to get them up and they are just going through that transition period.
“We will need the fans right behind us like they were on Saturday.”
Carlisle have experienced forwards such as Joe Garner and Sean Maguire.
Collins said: “I have had a few elbows from Garner before and given him a few myself. He’s fantastic in the air even though he’s not big in stature.
“They have good players. They have players fighting for their lives so it’s difficult to play against a team like that.”
While most clubs are yet to make a January signing, Carlisle have already brought in striker Luke Armstrong from Hartlepool, midfielder Harrison Neal from Sheffield United, defender Sean Grehan from Crystal Palace and Bradford goalkeeper Harry Lewis.
Barnsley striker Sam Cosgrove spent six months with Carlisle in the first half of the 2017/18 season, scoring once in 12 appearances before being signed by Aberdeen.
This will be the 29th meeting of the two clubs, with 11 wins each. Carlisle won 3-0 at Barnsley in 2019 in the EFL Cup when there were two divisions between the sides. The last league meeting was in 1986, with Carlisle winning 2-1 at Oakwell.
The Cumbrians have won four and drawn one of the last five meetings – including their last three games at Oakwell – losing just two of the last 15.