BARNSLEY’S dramatic and glorious Johnstone’s Paint Trophy northern section final penalty shoot-out win at Fleetwood on Thursday night will take some emulating for Yorkshire’s clubs ahead of another intriguing weekend of football.
What an appetiser was provided at the Highbury Stadium. But while there will be no champagne scenes this weekend for certain clubs if they triumph, three points will represent huge and sweet rewards in the context of several team’s seasons, nevertheless.
Two huge match-ups at the top and bottom of the Championship provide the main course with Hull City travelling to Burnley in a big summit showdown, while at the other end of the division, Rotherham United visit Bolton Wanderers in another seismic Roses meeting.
Sheffield Wednesday also face an important trip to play-off rivals Birmingham City, while there’s a derby thrown in to spice up the weekend mix with Doncaster Rovers making the short trip up the A18 to Scunthorpe United.
Not to mention, a juicy opening game for new Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes - at home to former club Blackburn Rovers. It’s all happening.
Here are FIVE weekend crackers.
1: Burnley v Hull City
First visits third with two of the Championship’s real thoroughbreds competing in the Football League’s undoubted match of the day.
Tigers boss Steve Bruce will be seeking to avoid the perils of the Manager of the Month curse, while Clarets counterpart Sean Dyche will be eyeing a repeat of their recent Turf Moor blitzing of another much-fancied side in Derby County.
The pair’s meeting in East Yorkshire at the end of last season had big ramifications in the relegation battle in the Premier League - and there is considerable importance here, albeit for different reasons.
If Hull secure a win in on Saturday - if they need a positive omen they should look to the spring victory there in the promotion campaign of 2012-13 thanks to Stephen Quinn’s strike - it will surely rank as their biggest of the campaign along with victory over Boro in early November.
Huge game - if Hull win, they are seven points clear of the Clarets. Lose and the gap is down to a point.
2: Birmingham City v Sheffield Wednesday
In an uplifting campaign, the two glitches for the Owls have been their inability to beat top-six rivals and win consistently on their travels. A victory at St Andrews would do much to address both issues.
The Owls are in a good place post transfer window, with plenty of options and players coming back into the fray and they look perfectly prepared for the final push in the last third of a breakthrough season.
A win in the second city in front of 3,000 Wednesdayites and clinching a seasonal double over the Blues - who they beat convincingly - would set them up very nicely indeed and ultimately complete another sound week following the draw with Burnley on Tuesday and extinguish memories of the recent FA Cup loss at Shrewsbury.
3: Middlesbrough v Blackburn Rovers
A truly devilish quirk of the fixture calendar sees Jordan Rhodes, fresh from his £11m move to Boro, potentially handed a debut against the side who he has just left and it has certainly spiced up proceedings on Teesside.
Boro finally have their man and Rhodes will be entrusted to score the goals that take the club to promotion. No pressure then.
Boro head into the game following successive losses - and no goals recorded - against Forest and Bristol City and they have never lost three matches in a row under Aitor Karanka.
Blackburn have handed them problems before, rewind to last season when they grabbed a hugely controversial late leveller at the Riverside which left the Boro bench fuming.
It will be a bit of a character test for the hosts, as well as Rhodes against his former team-mates.
4: Bolton Wanderers v Rotherham United
This time last weekend, Neil Redfearn would have looked at the games against Charlton and Bolton - two of his former clubs - as a very real opportunity to clinch six precious survival points.
Now, he is aiming to repair a bit of damage after a morale-sapping 4-1 reverse to Charlton last weekend.
Bolton were also in a bad place last weekend after being knocked out of the FA Cup by Leeds United to compound the prevailing gloom at the crisis club.
This represents the proverbial relegation six-pointer on a massive afternoon for both sides. They don’t come much bigger.
5: Scunthorpe United v Doncaster Rovers
Not too long ago, people were talking about Rovers as being outsiders for the League One play-offs. But a run of five games without a win in all competitions and successive home losses to Port Vale and Walsall has extinguished much of that talk.
Rovers are currently doing it tough, not helped by some key injuries - although Andy Butler could return against his old club this weekend.
It is the start of a derby triple-header for Rovers, who welcome Sheffield United next weekend and visit Barnsley the following week. This run of games assumes major importance to the club’s season - and it is nothing to do with just bragging rights.
If Rovers could choose away venues to visit, then Glanford Park would be top of the list. They have won on their last three trips there and have lost just once in their past 13 outings there.
But they have the matter of a Boxing Day loss to address to Iron, who have not completed a double over Rovers since 1989-90.