After almost suffering relegation from the Sky Bet Championship at the end of the 2017/18 season, Hull City must have feared another fight for survival last time out.
Sat in the bottom three at the end of November, Nigel Adkins’ side had picked up only four wins and scored 16 goals in 19 games. Defeats against newly promoted Blackburn Rovers and Wigan Athletic did little to ease the pessimism, while a comprehensive loss at struggling Reading indicated that it could be a long and disappointing campaign.
But the Tigers went on a 10-game unbeaten run – starting with a 0-0 draw against eventual champions Norwich City – to alleviate any potential relegations fears looming over the club. Six successive victories saw Hull concede just three goals as they dispatched Brentford, Swansea City, Preston North End, Leeds United, Bolton Wanderers (in a 6-0 thrashing) and Sheffield Wednesday.
That run of results – plus a draw with promotion-chasing Aston Villa – propelled Adkins’ side to eighth in the table and six points outside the top six. History generally suggests there is one team that makes a late push for the play-off places, and some in East Yorkshire dared to dream of a potential return to the top flight.
But they were unable to maintain that strong run of form and heavy defeats to Blackburn, Brentford and Nottingham Forest put a serious dent in their feint promotion aspirations.
Hope was briefly rekindled with three consecutive wins against lowly Ipswich Town, Reading and Wigan as the Tigers moved to within five points of sixth place Bristol City with just five games remaining.
It was, however, a tough run-in for Hull, who had to face Middlesbrough, West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United – all of whom put Adkins’ team to the sword and kept their own respective promotion pushes alive.
What had once looked like a potentially disastrous campaign at the KCOM Stadium had been transformed into one of hope under a manager who has pedigree in this league, having guided Southampton to the top flight in 2012.
After being appointed in December 2017 with the Tigers three points above the drop zone, he guided them to safety and recorded emphatic 5-0 and 4-0 wins over Queens Park Rangers and Burton Albion, respectively, before playing out a thrilling 5-5 draw with Bristol City at Ashton Gate.
In fact, their 70-goal haul that season was bettered only by Wolverhampton Wanderers, Fulham and Aston Villa, who all finished in the top four.
Hull will be hoping to keep hold of star man Jarrod Bowen, who struck 22 Championship goals last term. The 22-year-old forward could be crucial to any potential promotion hopes, although there were rumours linking him with a move to the Premier League in January.
It was announced only yesterday that Nigel Adkins has rejected a contract and so Hull will be looking for a new manager whilst trying to keep hold of the likes of Bowen and fellow attacker Kamil Grosicki.
The last time Barnsley met the Tigers was back in February 2018 when both sides drew 1-1 at the KCOM Stadium in horrendous conditions as the ‘Beast from the East’ wreaked havoc across Britain.
Overall, in 103 meetings, there have been 40 wins for each side with the most recent one for the Reds coming in April 2013 as goals from Jacob Mellis and Chris O’Grady secured a 2-0 victory at Oakwell.