Danny Wilson is banking on the unpredictability of the Championship to deliver another shock at Oakwell tonight when struggling Barnsley face Burnley.
The Clarets look destined to go up to the Premier League as they currently sit 10 points clear of third-placed QPR with six games remaining, and arrive at Oakwell as odds-on favourites to add to the pressure on the Tykes.
The hosts have won just eight league games all season and only Millwall have conceded more goals in the Championship this term.
They trail Charlton by two points, having played a game more, but Wilson – former boss at both Sheffield clubs – is a veteran of numerous campaigns, either fighting relegation or chasing promotion.
So he knows the ‘business end’ of a season throws up some unusual scorelines, when bottom beats top, and Wilson is looking for Barnsley to add to that sequence tonight.
After picking up seven points from a possible nine, after wins at Reading and Yeovil Town were followed by a scoreless draw against Brighton, the Reds have given themselves a lifeline.
“Burnley will be tough, I don’t know an easy game (in the Championship),” said Wilson.
“But there are some tougher than others.
“Burnley are a good side, but we have seen we can compete with teams at the top end of the league. That’s been a bonus for us.
“If you had said three weeks ago to a lot of people, would you still be in with a chance before those games, they would have said no.
“Now they’re not too sure because we are getting closer to the teams above us.
“One or two teams are not putting in the consistency that we have had in the last three games because the return of seven out of nine is good at the bottom part of the table.
“Other teams as well will get results you don’t expect at times. The table turns upside down, in some instances, at this stage of the season.
“Teams at the top start to lose a few games. That’s the way it goes, and it will continue that way.
“The work ethic the lads have been showing in the last month or so has been terrific.
“We have got to maintain that. We got a point out of Brighton which, maybe on other days, we wouldn’t have got that.
“We came away with a terrific point.”
Striker Marcus Pedersen missed Saturday’s game due to a hamstring injury and will be sidelined for a further fortnight.
Kelvin Etuhu’s red card on Saturday also rules the converted right-back out tonight.
Barnsley’s upturn in fortunes has co-incided with the arrival of Chris Hutchings, a former team-mate of Wilson in their playing days at Brighton, as assistant manager.
Hutchings – who has been No 2 to Paul Jewell at four different clubs, as well as Bradford City manager in their Premier League days – was tempted by the challenge of helping Barnsley’s attempt to escape the drop.
The 56-year-old said recent results were down to an upturn in confidence among the playing squad.
“The boys have responded to what I have wanted to get out of them in a fantastic manner,” he said.
“Obviously, getting results helps and makes them believe what we are trying to do.
“It’s all about rowing in the same direction, right throughout the club.
“But the boys have bought into it and working extremely hard.
“Whoever comes into a club, whether it be a manager, assistant manager or first-team coach, you would hope for an immediate impact.
“Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t. On this occasion it has happened.
“Now I know what the players can do – I watched them in four or five matches this season – so it’s credit to them.
“Winning games is all about confidence in any sport. At the moment, they are galvanised, working as one which is what you need.”
Now Hutchings has challenged the Barnsley players to carry on their mini-revival for the remaining seven games and repeat last year’s ‘great escape’.
“Whoever has got the shirt, it’s up to them to keep it,” he said. “They will be the ones giving it back, in terms of their performances.
“While I have been at the football club, three performances have been excellent and that needs to continue, to show the consistency of the last three games.
“Now we know they can sustain the effort and work-rate we are asking from them, and they have shown great quality too,” he concluded.
Last six games: Barnsley LLLWWD Burnley DWWWLD.
Last time: Barnsley 1 Burnley 0; January 5, 2013; FA Cup.
Referee: Neil Swarbrick (Lancs).