WHEN IT comes to punching above your weight in the unforgiving Championship, then Barnsley and Brentford perhaps represent the perfect templates to follow.
The pair have enjoyed sound campaigns under the astute leadership of two managers whose stars are on the rise in Paul Heckingbottom and Dean Smith and, despite differing fortunes for their respective clubs in the first offerings of Easter, the 2016-17 campaign has been a benign one.
It was Barnsley who held sway in the reverse fixture at Griffin Park in October, by virtue of a 2-0 success, but it is the Bees who take the field at Oakwell with the more pronounced spring in their step following a hefty 4-0 Good Friday victory over Derby County, their fourth win in five outings.
With both sides safely ensconced in mid-table, each should be afforded plenty of freedom of expression this afternoon – and Heckingbottom for one is expecting an eye-catching contest and not a dull end-of-season affair between two sides with little to play for on paper.
Heckingbottom said: “Dean has got a really good side. On their day, they can be fantastic and have the added freedom of knowing that they are safe, like us.
“They have a clear plan which differs from ours in one way, but the goal is exactly the same. They are getting it right and credit to them.
The big thing is that to punch above our weight, you have to be stronger than the sum of your parts – we have to be like that.Barnsley boss, Paul Heckingbottom
“Lots of our players that we have sold over the years have come through the academy. Whereas Brentford focus on their development group and recruit straight into that.
“But it is all about players coming into your first team and, at the minute, we don’t have many players who have come from the academy and, similar to Brentford, it is young players we have recruited to try and make a Championship team out of them.
“That is where the similarities are. This has been their approach for a few years in which they have been going down this route.
“But we have given a couple of debuts for academy players this season, one of them at Brentford.
“Our Under-23s play exactly the same way, so I know if I see a player performing that role, he can do it (in the first team). That’s what wins points and games.
“The big thing is that to punch above our weight, you have to be stronger than the sum of your parts and we have to be like that and we know that the players beneath can know that roles.”
Last six games: Barnsley DLDDWL Brentford LWWWLW.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Last time: Barnsley 1 Brentford 1; August 22, 2005; League One.