We spoke EXCLUSIVELY to former Reds centre half and fan favourite, Stephen Foster ahead of the week's big match against Neil Warnock's Bluebirds.
With the Reds set for a tough away trip to high-flying Cardiff City tomorrow night, we couldn’t help but be reminded of a previous visit to the Cardiff City Stadium - the 2013 encounter where a 97th minute equaliser earned Barnsley a priceless point in our ultimately successful fight to retain Championship status.
Five years later and again the Reds are fighting for survival ahead of a journey to the Welsh capital, whilst the Bluebirds are once more in contention for promotion to the Premier League.
And so we today caught up with the man who grabbed that vital late goal during what became known as the ‘Great Escape’ season - Stephen Foster.
The Reds had just gained another great point away at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace whilst wearing the hosts’ away kit after some confusion over kit choices, but headed into the match against the Welsh side with injuries taking their toll on David Flitcroft's squad.
Foster explained to us the feeling amongst the group heading into the Cardiff game.
“We were in the midst of a real tough set of fixtures,” he told us.
“We’d just been to Palace and got a terrific point down there, but we hadn’t the biggest of squads at the time and we were short on centre halves. So Bobby Hassell was drafted in to play with myself at centre half. I don’t think we even went home after that match, at Palace, I think we stayed in a hotel in preparation for the Cardiff game a few days later.
“But I always remember before that game, it was the most tired I’d ever been before a game. But because of the situation we were in at the time, we just got on with it and tried to do as much as possible to help ourselves, whether that be getting a massage or using the pool at the hotel, just trying to relax the muscles and get a bit of life back into your body.
“But there were quite a few of us who were running on empty at the time.”
Despite claiming a point with Stephen’s last-gasp leveller, Barnsley were under incessant pressure for much of the game.
The hosts passed up a number of chances as the Reds goal led a pretty charmed life.
Indeed, it wasn’t until the hour mark that the Reds conceded, with Ben Turner’s scruffy goal looking good enough for all three points.
“I was awful that night!” Foster remarked, laughing.
“I was literally that bad. I was feeling tired like I said, but you’re just trying your best, trying to graft to get us something to take back to Barnsley with us.
“My personal performance was awful, but as a team we hung in there. The boys dug in, which is what it's all about in these sort of situations. And in the last minute I was still up there from a free-kick I think. I was thinking, one - I’m too tired to sprint all the way back, and two - we need to get something here and this is probably our last chance.
“So I’ve just ended up staying up there in the box. And then Bobby’s carried it up the middle of the park, played it in towards Tomasz Cywka and he’s normally got a decent shot on him, but this time he didn’t catch it right. And I’ve just loitered waiting for a rebound, but the ball was heading away from goal I think and I’ve just tried to redirect it.
“And fortunately for me and the team, the ball’s gone in the opposite corner to the way the ‘keeper went. I went to our fans in the corner and as you can imagine, the scenes were something else."
Foster continued to look back on that night, with the Reds' point proving a very important one some weeks further down the line.
“It was a great feeling. We’d not played well, but we kept going and got something at the death. That was indicative of the character amongst the players at the time. And that turned out to be a really important point in the end.
“At the time of the game, you don’t really get the significance of the goal, or that point. You enjoy the emotion of the moment, but when we got to the end of the season it then looks like a really huge result looking back. It’s something I’ve seen the fans mention a lot since, just how vital a goal it was.
“It was a good feeling and another positive memory from what was an incredible season for us in the end.”
We asked the former Reds captain what he felt about Barnsley’s chances tomorrow night at Cardiff.
José Morais’ side have picked up four points from their last two games on their travels and with a week’s rest going into the game, Foster reckons they shouldn’t be written off but admitted it will be a stern test for Barnsley.
Warnock's men are currently enjoying a four-match winning streak and are four points clear of Aston Villa in the second automatic promotion spot.
He said: “It will be a tough task, for sure. But they’ve got to take confidence from recent performances. I was at Oakwell for the Burton game which obviously wasn’t great, the first half at least. But I think from the second half of that onwards, the new manager looks to have affected things and the results in the last two games speak for themselves.
“They need to take heart from that. And it’s always good I think to be playing the so-called better sides who are doing well. The onus is on them really, and the Reds players should be looking to test themselves against them and prove they’re more than capable of matching up against them.
“I think Barnsley were very unlucky not to beat them at Oakwell earlier in the season, so they shouldn’t fear Cardiff. I believe there’s enough about them to stay up this season, I hope so. I have a lot of time for the club and wish them well in Cardiff and beyond.”