Barnsley welcome Crewe Alexandra to Oakwell this weekend looking to get back to winning ways following the Club’s defeat at Crawley last Saturday. The loss leaves the Reds sitting just four points above the relegation zone.
Caretaker bosses Mark Burton and Paul Heckingbottom can draw on inspiration from the Reds’ home form of late however, with Fleetwood’s recent success at Oakwell the Club’s first home defeat in six games which included consecutive wins against Leyton Orient, Yeovil, Port Vale and Oldham.
Saturday’s visitors Crewe meanwhile saw their three-match winning streak brought to an end on Tuesday night with a narrow 2-1 defeat at Doncaster.
The Railwaymen’s form has improved drastically of late however with wins against Colchester, Yeovil and Fleetwood leaving them placed seven points above the relegation zone and seven behind the play-off places in 18th.
In October the Alex sat bottom of the division after losing nine of their first 11 games but seven wins in their last 11 outings – including two of their last three on the road - has seen Steve Davis’s outfit climb away from trouble.
Barnsley and Crewe will meet for the third time this season when the Alex travel to Oakwell on Saturday afternoon.
Before this season the two Clubs had not met in six years but two games in four days back in August brought an end to that and with it, two entertaining clashes.
Goals from Billy Waters and Matt Tootle sealed a second successive triumph for the Railwaymen at Oakwell in the League Cup, but the Reds did not have to wait long to get their revenge and several days later Danny Wilson’s men earned a first victory in six games in this fixture after strikes from Leroy Lita and Martin Cranie earned a 2-1 success at Gresty Road.
Prior to that win, the Reds had suffered five defeats in a row against the Alex with the Cheshire-based Club completing the double over Barnsley in the 2002-03 season, as well as enjoying Cup success in both August 2008 and August 2014.
Another defeat came the Reds way in the 2001-02 campaign but that season also witnessed Barnsley’s last Oakwell win in this fixture as goals from Dean Gorre and Alex Neil earned a 2-0 triumph for Nigel Spackman’s side.
Dale Jennings, James Bailey and George Williams could all be set for a return to the Reds starting XI this weekend following run outs for the U21 side on Tuesday.
Winger Jennings was not involved in last week’s crushing defeat at Crawley, while former Crewe man Bailey has failed to feature for nearly two months.
Williams – a December signing from Worcester – has made just one start for the Club but after playing the full 90 minutes in the Reds U21’s 2-1 loss to Sheffield United he is in contention to start at Oakwell.
Caretaker duo Mark Burton and Paul Heckingbottom recalled young defenders George Smith and Mason Holgate for last weekend’s defeat and they will provide stiff competition to Williams for a starting spot at full-back.
Meanwhile in attack, Leroy Lita was involved from the off for the first time since early January against the Red Devils but he faces a fight to keep his place after Kane Hemming’s came off the bench to score at the Checkatrade.com Stadium.
Crewe boss Steve Davis is set to name the same starting XI for the fourth game running when the Railwaymen cross the Pennines this weekend.
The Alex have been unchanged for their recent matches against Yeovil, Fleetwood and Doncaster and barring any late knocks it could be a case of same again for Davis and his side.
One man who will be trying to force his way into that side however is defender Jon Guthrie, who has returned to training after a knee injury which has ruled him out since the middle of January.
Man in the Middle
Cambridgeshire-based referee Darren Deadman will be involved in a Barnsley match for the second time this season when the Reds host Crewe Alexandra on Saturday. Back in October, the official awarded Barnsley a 68th minute penalty which was duly dispatched by top scorer Conor Hourihane as the Reds picked up a respectable 2-2 draw at home to automatic promotion favourites Bristol City. The game was the sixth Barnsley match to be officiated by Deadman, with the Reds drawing three and losing three including a 1-0 reverse at Elland Road back in October 2012 when he awarded the home side a penalty which was converted by forward Luciano Becchio.
Deadman – who will be assisted by Nicholas Gibbons, Mark Jones and David Benton at Oakwell – has also been the man in the middle for six Crewe games; three of which they have lost including a 5-1 hammering at Derby County in January 2006 and their 2-0 defeat at Bradford earlier this season. The Railwaymen have tasted victory once in Deadman’s company however as they beat Swindon 2-0 at Gresty Road three years ago, while the other two meetings have ended as stalemates.
Both sets of players will have to be mindful of their actions this weekend with referee Deadman brandishing 84 yellow cards and eight reds already this season. The official has sent off six players in his last 11 matches, with his most recent dismissal coming in early January when he showed red to Hartlepool’s Lewis Hawkins in his side’s 1-0 loss at Wycombe.
Their Star Man
On loan with the Railwaymen from Leeds United, forward Nicky Ajose has quickly established himself as one of the signings of the season in League One. After joining on an emergency deal in late November, the ex-Manchester United trainee extended that move until the end of the campaign in January after excelling at Gresty Road so far this term.
Despite failing to notch on his Alex debut, the frontman bagged on his second appearance for the Club, which began a spell of four goals in five games including a brace on Boxing Day as Steve Davis’ side beat Oldham 2-1. In late January the former England youth international – who signed for Leeds in the summer from Peterborough – adhered himself even further to the Crewe faithful as he netted the only goal of the game in the Club’s 1-0 derby success at Port Vale.
That solo strike was Ajose’s fifth for the Club but the ex-Scunthorpe loanee has taken his game to an even higher level of late, adding three more goals to his Crewe tally in his last four appearances to make it eight in 13 games. The striker – who has also been capped by the Nigerian U20’s side and has two assists to his name this season – bagged in the Club’s recent wins against Colchester, Yeovil and Fleetwood as the Railwaymen continue to climb the League One ladder.
Born in Warrington, former Barnsley favourite Stephen Foster signed professional terms with local Club Crewe Alexandra in 1998. After making his Alex debut at the tender age of 17, Foster quickly established himself as a first-team regular at Gresty Road and netted his first goal for the Club during the 2000-01 season as the Railwaymen drew 2-2 at home to Bury. The centre-back enjoyed an even better goal return a year later however; notching six times including a 90th minute winner against Preston. Despite those goal scoring heroics, Crewe suffered relegation and following several years of ups and downs between divisions’ one and two, Foster decided it was time for a new challenge during the summer of 2006 and after scoring 18 goals in 242 appearances he joined Burnley.
That move to Turf Moor did not last long however, with the ambitious defender making just 19 appearances before sealing a switch to Oakwell in August 2007 for a fee in the region of £100,000. The former Crewe man made his Barnsley debut in a 3-2 home success against Plymouth and scored his first goal for the Club in a 2-1 home FA Cup win against Blackpool. It was his second goal for the Club which will be fondly remembered however, as the Reds travelled to Anfield. In one of the Club’s most memorable victories, Foster nodded in Martin Devaney’s cross to make it 1-1 before Brian Howard’s last-gasp winner sealed a 2-1 win.
The 34-year-old – who has been without a Club since leaving Tranmere in 2013 – helped the Reds keep a clean sheet as they narrowly beat Chelsea 1-0 in the quarter-finals and despite tasting defeat in the semi-finals against Cardiff, Foster played the full 90 minutes at Wembley. The versatile defender remained a regular at Oakwell for the next four seasons; scoring seven goals in the process including the winner against Watford in November 2008. The 2012-13 campaign saw Foster add another 34 appearances to his Barnsley record – becoming the Club’s second longest serving player – but despite that record he was released at the end of the campaign and although he agreed an immediate switch to join Tranmere Rovers, his deal was cancelled my mutual consent after just two months.
Barnsley's last 5 at home: (WWWWL)
Barnsley 2-0 Leyton Orient
Barnsley 2-0 Yeovil Town
Barnsley 2-1 Port Vale
Barnsley 1-0 Oldham Athletic
Barnsley 1-2 Fleetwood Town
Crewe Alexandra's last 5 away: (WLWWL)
Oldham Athletic 1-2 Crewe
Notts County 2 -1 Crewe
Port Vale 0-1 Crewe
Colchester United 2-3 Crewe
Doncaster Rover 2-1 Crewe