LEE JOHNSON is demanding more from misfiring loan striker Michael Smith, who is yet to get off the mark for the Reds.
A microcosm of Barnsley’s desperate recent league form has arrived in the guise of Smith, who has not scored in 10 appearances since arriving from Swindon Town, although, in mitigation, he has only started four matches.
The Geordie, ineligible for the Reds’ two cup appointments in the past week, is back in the fray for this afternoon’s test as Johnson’s side aim to avoid a painful eighth successive league reverse.
Smith’s loan expires in January and Johnson says the ball is very much in the 24-year-old’s court, with only the currency of goals likely to significantly bolster his chances of staying.
Johnson, whose side had a much-needed JP Trophy win over York in midweek, said: “Michael would be honest enough to say he has not had the big influence or effect as he’d have hoped for.
“I thought Michael’s best game was Scunthorpe away where I thought he had the bit between his teeth and he could have scored two or three. But I thought he had a poor game at Coventry.
“Football changes really quickly and he could start on Saturday and bang in a hat-trick. Strikers, in particular, are very goals orientated and rightly so. Sometimes, they get affected by not scoring.”
Vale also come to Oakwell in need of redemption, with the Potteries outfit having won just once in their last seven outings.
Johnson still believes Vale will pose a tough examination, with the side honed in the image of their manager, former Sheffield United defender Rob Page, who is someone Johnson knows well, with the Welshman being his captain at Watford.
With Barnsley within two defeats of the club’s worst losing sequence in the league – nine set in 1952-53 – Johnson said: “They are big and they are men and it is a case of us imposing our game on them.”
Last six games: Barnsley LLLLLW; Port Vale LDLLWD.
Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).
Last time: Barnsley 2 Port Vale 1; January 31, 2015; Championship.