FIVE TEAMS are in midweek action tonight, with the marquee fixture seeing Barnsley entertain Championship title favourites Newcastle United, while Leeds United are in home action against Wigan Athletic.
Rotherham United and Sheffield United have road trips in the Midlands and Bradford Citywill be seeking to ‘get back on the horse’ after the unbeaten league record finally ended on Saturday.
Here’s five midweek observations.
1. Barnsley v Newcastle United. Another midweek, another Champions League winning manager at Oakwell.
Three weeks to the day, it was now former Aston Villa boss Roberto di Matteo, who memorably lifted Europe’s big prize with Chelsea in the Allianz Arena in May 2012, who strode out at Oakwell.
Now it is Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez, who presided over the Miracle of Istanbul with Liverpool in the heady spring of 2005.
The arrival of both big-name clubs and managers is a reminder of what Barnsley have signed up to this season - and why winning their League One play-off final carried such an incentive and golden ticket.
At the minute, the Reds are doing it tough on the back of five defeats in five, with some coffee having been metaphorically been smelled in recent weeks.
Paul Heckingbottom’s side should not beat themselves up, mind. A spell like this was always likely to happen, with the Reds still in credit after a head-turning start to the season.
Heckingbottom’s major concern will be cutting out the defensive mistakes after a poor collective showing against Fulham and any similar failings will be ruthlessly exploited by a Newcastle side who are starting to flex their muscles. A time to dig in a bit for the Reds also, who could be without Conor Hourihane and Josh Scowen.
2. Leeds United v Wigan Athletic. A chance to get back to winning ways in double-quick time.
An early and welcome chance to return to winning ways for Leeds United against a Wigan side who have not exactly set many pulses racing so far this term.
Beaten by Derby they may have been at the weekend, but it was not a defeat with too many recriminations for Leeds, who were edged out in the final analysis. It will be quickly forgotten about if they beat the Latics.
Defensively, Leeds have looked sound in recent weeks, with it obvious to all and sundry that plenty of hard yards have been done back at Thorp Arch.
A base camp has been reached and now it is about fine-turning their attacking structures.
Garry Monk admitted that Leeds had “failed to do enough good things with the ball” at Derby and he will be expecting to see a much better showing in that respect against Wigan, who have taken just one point from six away games in the Championship in 2016-17.
3. Birmingham City v Rotherham United. Can St Andrews’ provide much-needed inspiration again for Millers.
The Millers away days have followed a depressingly familiar format this term.
Six losses at the start of a league season - an occurrence which previously happened 95 years ago - and 19 goals conceded, with defensive mistakes killing them, with Alan Stubbs suffering from repetitive strain syndrome increasingly repeating the same mantra after away games.
There is no let-up tonight against Blues, where there is a pronounced feel-good factor following completion of their protracted takeover. Can the Millers spoil the party?
If they need incentive, think back to September of last year, when the Millers secured a fine first away win of the season in a stand-out 2-0 win at St Andrews, although it proved more fateful for being Steve Evans’s last match in charge.
4. Bradford City v Southend United: Time for Hanson maybe?
It is hard to criticise Bradford City too much, given a start to the league season which had seen them go unbeaten until their late, late weekend loss at Oxford.
But, it has to be said, they looked a little power-puff in an attacking sense at the weekend and failed to impose themselves and record a shot on target, with proceedings compounded by a penalty miss for Billy Clarke.
Fit-again Hanson is waiting in the wings as a Plan B, with his physical strength and aerial ability posing issues for any rival defence to contend with.
Southend are not the best travellers, having lost nine out of 11 matches on the road since March and freshening up City’s attacking ranks might be timely. We’ll see.
5. Shrewsbury Town v Sheffield United: No room for complacency, timely words from Wilder.
The buoyant Blades are on their best run of league form since the spring of 2014, but do not expect Chris Wilder to be jumping through hoops. He clearly wants more.
As he sagely said in the build-up to tonight’s game at Shrewsbury, the Blades need to push on now and hit the accelerator with now not the time to be complacent and pat themselves on the backs.
His call to his Blades side to not take anything for granted ahead of tonight’s trip to the struggling Shrews is also astute.
It is bread-and-butter away games like this where attitude, spirit, professionalism and organisation comes to the fore for all successful sides, although Wilder’s troops have certainly showed spates of it of late.
As he correctly said, the clubs’ next two games against Bradford City and MK Dons will ‘take care of themselves’ with both sides expected to be in the shake-up come the business end.
A banana-skin game at Shrewsbury - whose pumped-up players will be seeking to impress any managerial candidates sat in the stands at Greenhous Meadow - will be about doing jobs collectively and professionally.