Barnsley v Leeds Utd: Cranie is confident Barnsley have spirit for repeat

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Twelve months ago, the unwavering team spirit harnessed by an earnest David Flitcroft helped Barnsley storm towards safety in one of the greatest recoveries in the club’s history.

A year on, and under the more experienced stewardship of Danny Wilson, a siege mentality within the Reds’ dressing room is once again giving them hope of defying the odds and preserving their Championship status for another year.

Barnsley's Martin Cranie takes on Leeds United's Rodolph Austin the last time the sides met (Picture: Simon Hulme).

Barnsley's Martin Cranie takes on Leeds United's Rodolph Austin the last time the sides met (Picture: Simon Hulme).

Among the many players who sampled the unity last term and is thriving on it again is Martin Cranie, a straight-talking defender from the west country who has made blue collar South Yorkshire his home.

Such is his affinity with the town and his employers that when external sources trot out the same line about Barnsley being relegation fodder year after year, he knows now to merely shut out the negativity and cloak himself in the comfortable surrounds of the Oakwell dressing room.

“Most of it is negative around Barnsley,” he said of the press the team receive. “We’ve heard it before, and I don’t read much into it.

“People write us off early, but the belief just needs to be in that dressing room and that should be it.

“And that’s where it is. Because we’re the ones who can do it and, with the help of the supporters, I believe there is enough in that dressing room to get us out of it.”

Barnsley have certainly shown there is enough quality in recent weeks, particularly on their travels.

They have picked up three wins from four games, none more important than the 2-1 triumph achieved at The Valley on Tuesday night that kept them within touching distance of fourth-bottom Charlton Athletic.

That they are in this predicament owes much to the fact that they failed to build on last year’s exhausting survival campaign.

“At the start of the season you all think as players that you’re not going to be in it again,” continued Cranie, who joined Barnsley from Coventry in 2012.

“You think this is our year to get away from it.

“But we did it last year and it’s about belief now, just taking it each game at a time and getting ourselves motivated collectively and individually.”

For a Barnsley player there are not too many fixtures that inspire self-motivation more than Leeds United at home.

The Oakwell faithful love to take the scalp of their Yorkshire rivals and have been able to celebrate three in the past three years, with Leeds sent packing to the tune of 11 goals conceded.

A 2-0 win last January sparked Barnsley’s renaissance, but today’s renewal is more about maintaining the momentum created from Tuesday night’s win over Charlton, which breathed renewed hope into the Reds’ dressing room.

“That was the biggest game of the season, but now this becomes the biggest game,” said Cranie, whose side are two points from safety with four games to play.

“Everybody knew it was a must-win game for us, and it’s allowed us to move on.

“That win has pulled about two or three teams into it. If we can get a win (today) then there could be four teams on roughly the same points with three games to go.

“We went through all this last year so it can help us this time around.

“It went down to the last game of the season so it would be nice to do it earlier, although it does look like it will go to the wire.

“Hopefully the experience a lot of us have from last year will help us this time.

“There’s a good vibe in the team at the minute, especially because we’re playing well away from home now.

“Derby away coming up is a massive game on Monday, but the way we’ve been playing the last few games on the road gives us a lot of belief that we can go there and win now.”

First things first – today’s enticing Yorkshire derby.

Cranie added: “It’s always rocking against Leeds, especially last season when everyone rose to the occasion.

“The lads were up for it and we played very well against them.

“But we have to be calm about it. We’ve got to let others worry about the occasion, we’ve got to play the game.

“Deep down we’ll know it’s a local derby, but we’ve got to focus on the job at hand.

“We need the fans behind us again. When this place is loud and singing it does give you a buzz on the pitch.

“If they can be there for us I’m sure we can put on a show for them.”

Leeds head to Oakwell after what has been a rare quiet week at Elland Road.

United have been the definition of drama over the past few months, but with the takeover now settled, manager Brian McDermott is hoping to end the season with people talking about the football they are producing on the pitch.

“We’ve had too many games this season where we’ve let ourselves down,” he said.

“We want to go there and, for these next four games, restore some pride. The ownership’s on an even keel now and the club’s on an even keel. We know what the situation is.

“We’re going into the summer with optimism anyway. The ownership’s sorted out. That’s a gimme.

“We can plan now – we can start planning for pre-season training, where we’re going to go, the games we need to organise and the players we need to bring in – a lot of stuff we couldn’t have done a few weeks ago.

“We’ve got four games to go and our history at Barnsley isn’t very good. We need to make amends for that. We’ll have a big support down there and we’ve got to do right by ourselves and the fans.”