Barnsley will look to end their two-year exile from the Championship when they take on Millwall in the League One play-off final on Sunday afternoon.
The Reds could not be in better shape as they visit Wembley for the second time this season; unbeaten in nine and having won their last three games on the bounce.
A final day victory at Wigan was followed up by back-to-back wins against Walsall in the play-off semi-final; with Paul Heckingbottom’s men also scoring 10 goals in their last three outings.
Another triumph this weekend however would cap a remarkable season for the Reds, with this year’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy winners sitting in the relegation zone back in November.
Just like Barnsley, Sunday’s opponents Millwall go into the clash in fine form having won five of their last six games.
Last Friday’s 1-1 draw against Bradford in their play-off semi-final second leg ended the Club’s five-match winning streak but with the Lions desperate to secure promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking, they travel the short distance to Wembley full of confidence.
With just four goals conceded in their last six outings, Neil Harris’ side have a strong foundation to build from but with the likes of Lee Gregory and Steve Morison banging them in at the other end, it has the potential to be an entertaining affair come Sunday afternoon.
The Reds will be desperate to make it a hat-trick of victories against Millwall this season when they take on the Lions at Wembley.
Back in August goals from Sam Winnall, Alfie Mawson and Lewin Nyatanga earned Barnsley all three points at the Den, while in January and Adam Hammill and Winnall once again helped secure another win for the Reds in this fixture and their third in a row.
That is because Barnsley edged the most recent meeting between the Clubs before this season when they won 1-0 at Oakwell in February 2014 courtesy of an early Jim O’Brien effort.
Despite that victory however, the 2013-14 campaign did witness Millwall’s most recent triumph in this fixture; with a second-half Scott Wiseman own goal gifting the Lions their 20thsuccess against the Reds.
Paul Heckingbottom is likely to name an unchanged XI for the sixth game running as the Reds go in search of play-off glory this weekend.
The Barnsley caretaker head coach has seen the same Barnsley side secure two draws and three wins in the Club’s last five outings and with no fresh injury or suspension concerns it should be same again.
That would see Josh Scowen deployed once again at full-back, while on-loan trio Lloyd Isgrove, Josh Brownhill and Ashley Fletcher will be desperate to end their spells at the Club with one last big performance.
Elsewhere, Marley Watkins, James Bree and George Smith could all be included in the Club’s matchday squad after returning to training, with Ryan Williams the only absentee ahead of this weekend’s vital clash.
Millwall will be without right-back Mahlon Romeo once again, with the 20-year-old set to serve the final game of his three-match ban.
Former Sunderland man Carlos Edwards should deputise again in the youngster’s absence, but boss Neil Harris does have Sid Nelson, Tony Craig and Jimmy Abdou all available if he opts to make a change in that position.
One area of the Lions side which needs no alterations however is their attack, with top goal scorer Lee Gregory proving his fitness in the Club’s second leg against Bradford and he is almost certain to start alongside Steve Morison in attack.
That would mean a place amongst the substitutes for young striker Aiden O’Brien, but with an impressive 13 goals to his name this season he has the potential to be a dangerous weapon later on in proceedings.
Man in the Middle
Stuart Attwell is the man entrusted with taking charge of this weekend’s League One play-off final. The 33-year-old – who will be assisted by linesmen Nigel Lugg and Rob Jones, as well as fourth official Stephen Martin – was the man in the middle for the League Two play-off final between Rochdale and Stockport back in 2008.
This weekend’s game will see the Reds meet with Attwell for a seventh time and the third this season. Unfortunately for Paul Heckingbottom’s side however, they have suffered defeats in both meetings with the official this time out; losing 2-1 at home to Shrewsbury in September, as well as 2-0 at Scunthorpe a month later.
Those defeats made it five losses in six for the Reds with Attwell in charge but the Club will be hoping for more of the same from last season when they beat Walsall 3-0 under the young official’s watch.
Millwall meanwhile, have met with Attwell on no fewer than 10 occasions; losing five, drawing two and winning three. The most recent of those games came in January, when he watched over the Lions’ 2-0 home defeat against Oxford United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
Attwell – who was at Wembley just over a week ago to take charge of the FA Vase final between Hereford and Morpeth Town – brandished two yellow cards in Millwall’s surprise defeat against the U’s and so far this season he has shown 116 yellows and four reds in 43 matches.
Their Star Man
Lee Gregory may only be in his second season as a Football League striker but the Sheffield-born front man has been a revelation this term. Following his transfer from non-league side FC Halifax Town in 2014 – where he scored 31 goals in 39 games during the 2013-14 campaign – he bagged nine times last time out including a hat-trick against Derby in a 3-3 draw.
Despite that fine end to last season, the 27-year-old began this campaign quite slowly; hitting just four goals in his first 18 appearances. The former Sheffield United trainee then began to show signs of the form which would see him become Millwall’s star man this season; notching six goals in three games, four of which came in the same game against Plymouth in a 5-3 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy success.
Gregory did then go seven games without a goal but he more than made up for it with a hot streak of nine goals in eight matches including doubles against Port Vale and Walsall, as well as winners against Chesterfield, Oxford and Rochdale.
That excellent run of form moved Gregory onto 19 for the season and after bagging his 20thof the campaign in February’s 3-0 home win against Peterborough, the in-form forward has gone onto notch another seven times, including three in his last three outings.
With 20 of his 27 goals coming in the League, Gregory remains five behind the division’s top scorer Will Grigg but with three assists and a career high tally in the Football League, the Millwall no.9 will be more than happy with what has been a remarkable season.
In July Barnsley completed the signing of forward Conor Wilkinson on a six-month loan deal from Bolton Wanderers. The Croydon-born striker made an instant impact at Oakwell; notching on his debut for the Club in a 3-1 defeat at Chesterfield.
Unfortunately for Wikinson however, that would be his final goal for the Reds, with injury ruling him out for the majority of September and October. The ex-Chester, Torquay and Oldham loanee did make 12 appearances in total for the Club however, helping them secure three victories during his stay in South Yorkshire.
Following that loan move, Wilkinson has spent spells with both Newport County and Portsmouth in League Two and despite only scoring one goal during that period he will be hoping to force his way into Bolton’s squad next season.
Before joining the Lancashire Club, the English-born Irish front man spent two full seasons as a scholar with Sunday’s opponents Millwall. After impressing in the Club’s academy, the Republic of Ireland U21 international turned down the chance to sign a professional deal with the Lions and instead opted for a move north and to the Macron Stadium in 2013.
Despite making the move, Wilkinson – who penned a new three-year deal with Bolton last season - has made just seven appearances for Wanderers and is yet to score for the recently relegated side.
Barnsley’s last five games: (DDWWW)
Sheffield United 0-0 Barnsley
Barnsley 2-2 Sheffield United
Wigan Athletic 1-4 Barnsley
Barnsley 3-0 Walsall
Walsall 1-3 Barnsley
Millwall’s last five games: (WWWWD)
Bury 1-3 Millwall
Millwall 3-0 Oldham Athletic
Gillingham 1-2 Millwall
Bradford City 1-3 Millwall
Millwall 1-1 Bradford City