BARNSLEY’S next port of call may be Moss Lane and not Wembley, but for Lee Johnson, Saturday’s FA Cup first-round tie at Altrincham is very much a ‘cup final’.
For the second season running, a Reds manager heads west across the Pennines for a cup tie in which the possible ramifications of defeat do not need spelling out.
It is not just the embarrassment of a cup exit to giant-killing non-league opponents at the first-round stage either, with Johnson’s nine-and-half month tenure very much on the line if the Reds lose out at Altrincham.
Johnson’s predecessor Danny Wilson was in a similar position before Christmas, but a 3-0 second-round replay win at Chester ended the immediate threat of time being called on his reign
After seven successive defeats, the situation is just as serious, if not more grave for Johnson, who is under no illusions of the importance of Saturday’s tie.
Johnson, at least encouraged by his side’s efforts in scoring three times in Tuesday’s 4-3 loss at Coventry City – which equalled the Reds’ worst losing league run since 1958-59 – said: “It is really important we get a win on Saturday and on Tuesday (against York in the JPT).
“I believe if we play like we did at Coventry, we will. We have to make sure we respect the opposition as it’s a big game for us.
“The players have to treat it not like an FA Cup first-round tie, but a cup final and we will get them going to do that.
“We will take an abundance of fans and hope the fans enjoy their day.”
Once again, poor defensive errors let down Barnsley in the final analysis on Tuesday night and despite claiming some kudos for a stirring second-half offensive performance, Johnson was critical of his side’s fearful defending, particularly before the break.
Johnson, who revealed that the club have made an enquiry regarding the services of veteran midfielder Kevin Nolan, added: “I thought that in the first half they were brighter than us and our back four showed a bit of fear.
“But then we got back into it. But we conceded another poor goal defensively, which was disappointing.
“Then we rallied a little bit and certainly bossed the midfield and in the second half, I thought we were the better side and gave it a go and the lads are still playing for everybody.”