Barnsley travel to Stoke City on Wednesday evening looking to build on their hard-earned point against Sky Bet Championship leaders Bristol City at the weekend.
Cauley Woodrow’s dramatic late penalty 12 minutes into stoppage time ensured the Reds claimed a richly deserved share of the spoils, having been pegged back by the Robins after Michal Helik’s early opener at Oakwell.
It was just the result that Adam Murray needed in his first game back in interim charge of the team, and he spoke after the match about the players’ character to never give in – something that was shown in abundance at the tail end of last season.
There appeared to be more onus on the attack on Saturday, with Barnsley showing greater impetus – especially when reverting to four at the back midway through the second half.
Murray’s record during his first spell saw the Reds net eight goals in five games as he adopted a more offensive approach; the issue was keeping them out at the other end. There were signs against the Robins that the defensive solidity implemented under Gerhard Struber since lockdown was still part of the foundations – particularly seeing that the visitors’ goals were both aided by huge deflections as we limited Dean Holden’s side to few chances.
You can watch Murray's pre-match press conference over on iFollow Barnsley, and that of midfielder Romal Palmer, or by clicking the linked videos above.
Barnsley had a confidence and swagger about them and seemingly a licence to express themselves, but it will be a different task against Stoke with memories of the 4-0 humbling a few months ago still fresh.
The Potters have begun the new campaign brightly and sit eighth in the table with just one defeat, but are yet to register a win at home; losing to Bristol City and salvaging a late point against Birmingham City.
Under Michael O’Neill, City have rediscovered their aura as one of the division’s so-called ‘big boys’, having failed to find any kind of consistency following their relegation from the top flight in 2018.
Consecutive lower-mid table finishes at the bet365 Stadium constitute as underachieving for Stoke, who will surely have ambitions of returning to the Premier League, where they spent 10 consecutive seasons, reached an FA Cup final and even embarked on a European adventure with trips to Kiev, Tel-Aviv and finally Valencia.
There are a few familiar faces in the Potters’ line-up, with Jacob Brown joining ex-Reds Adam Davies and Liam Lindsay in Staffordshire. As well as adding our former ‘Star Man’ to their squad, City bolstered their ranks with more experience in the transfer window, with Steven Fletcher and Jon Obi Mikel brought in by O’Neill, and James Chester making his loan move permanent following his release from Aston Villa.
Over the years, this has been a relatively even fixture, with both sides winning 22 of the 60 encounters. Istvan Ferenczi was on target the last time Barnsley claimed all three points in a 1-0 win at City back in February 2007.