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Match Previews

SHEFFIELD UNITED PREVIEW

18 March 2022

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We make the short trip south to Sheffield for our next Sky Bet Championship assignment - the Reds face the Blades at Bramall Lane this Saturday lunchtime.

The 21/22 league campaign is into the home straight. We are into single figures now in terms of fixtures remaining. Just nine more outings in the Sky Bet Championship; nine more chances for Poya Asbaghi's side to somehow pull off another second tier escape act. 

That we are still in there with a shout owes a lot to historical EFL punishments handed out to both Reading and Derby County. That cannot be ignored. But the rules are the rules, and it's giving the Reds an opportunity to survive in a season where they've - for the most part - looked unable to compete.

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But over the last four weeks there has been a marked improvement, a real upturn in form for Barnsley, whose current form would see them amongst the play-off challengers, rather than scrapping for their lives at the other end. 

In that four weeks, the Reds have doubled their points tally. 14 points from their last eight fixtures, compared to the 14 picked up in the previous 29. 

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An incredible turnaround. And it's come at the perfect time, with those clubs around us failing to be as successful over the last month, which has seen Asbaghi's men move to within two points of Reading and safety. 

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Our latest fruitful outing came during midweek when the Reds eased beyond a struggling Bristol City side to register quite possibly the most comfortable night's work of a season that has been arduous for the majority. 

It was earned in the first half of Tuesday night's clash. Early strikes for Carlton Morris and Michał Helik, both via set plays (for the first time this season) were enough against the Robins who only threatened in brief. 

It extended the Reds' unbeaten home run to five matches. But our form on the road is surely going to need to improve too if we are to pull off what looked like a miracle as recently as mid-February.

We have lost seven of our last eight league fixtures away from Oakwell. The one anomaly being last month's terrific 2-0 win at Hull City. 

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If the Reds do go down, there will be many reasons, lots of blame apportioned. But the away record is appalling and with five further road trips to come, all against tough opposition, something really has to change, and fast. 

Barnsley still have to go to Millwall, Swansea, Huddersfield and finally West Brom. Three of those sides still have play-off ambitions at least. 

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And this weekend we head to our Yorkshire rivals who are in the thick of that promotion mix themselves, sitting just a point shy of the top six going into Saturday's derby clash in S2. 

However, in the few weeks that have seen the Reds come alive, the Blades have spent that same time struggling to maintain the form that up until mid-February had them looking likely for an automatic promotion spot, never mind the play-offs.

United, led by former Reds hero Paul Heckingbottom have won just one of their previous five games going into Saturday's 12.30pm kick-off.

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In midweek they were held to a goalless draw away at Blackpool, and were arguably hard done-by with two goals disallowed by the officials on the night.

The Blades are enduring a tough time in terms of injuries. A number of players have been missing in recent weeks, but they've still been able to name a very strong XI regardless, and this weekend they welcome back Scottish international duo John Fleck and Oli McBurnie (once of this parish). 

It's very difficult to look beyond the evergreen Billy Sharp when picking out the danger man for United. The now 36-year-old striker has never quite found the goals at the highest level, but back in the second tier he's a machine. 

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But our key man is on-loan attacking midfielder Morgan Gibbs-White. The 22-year-old from Wolves has eight goals and seven assists to his name and will need to be closely checked by the Reds backline this weekend if we're to get a positive result.

Earlier in the season, Barnsley were being embarrassed by the Blades at Oakwell. Three goals down with 20 minutes left to play, quickfire goals from Devante Cole and Aaron Leya Iseka threatened a late comeback, but it wasn't to be, and that result formed just one of 10 defeats from 11, a run that soon saw the back of Markus Schopp.

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The Reds were beaten 1-0 on our last visit to Bramall Lane, back in August of 2017. That man, Sharp was on target early doors in a fractious affair that saw both David McGoldrick and Angus MacDonald sent off.

Our last taste of success at the venue where we once lifted the FA Cup came in November of 2014 when Sam Winnall's header proved enough for a 1-0 victory when both clubs were in the third tier. 

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The man in the middle on Saturday will be Matt Donohue. It will be the referee's third Reds game this term, having already overseen the 1-1 draws against both Birmingham City and Huddersfield Town at Oakwell. 

Reds supporters in the UK and overseas are able to buy match passes for this fixture via iFollow Barnsley. 

Fans can enjoy live streaming of the game, with a match pass priced at £10.

Join our commentary team from 12.20pm at Bramall Lane.

For further information on iFollow for this season, and how to activate seasonal subscriptions, please click the link below. 

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