IN a month that will see three of the current top six in League One visit Oakwell, tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy tie seems decidedly small beer.
Manchester City Under-21s, fresh from pipping Crewe Alexandra to runners-up spot in Group D, stand between Daniel Stendel’s men and a place in the third round of a competition that the Reds won in 2016.
Much has changed since that glorious day at Wembley, of course, with the change of format that has seen Academy sides such as City take part having proved a huge turn-off for supporters.
Three-figure crowds have become almost the norm, the nadir coming last month when a paltry 202 turned out to watch Burton Albion host Middlesbrough Under-21s.
In comparison, Barnsley’s crowds have been respectable with 2,925 watching the group stage draw to a close with victory over Bradford City just a week after 2,300 came through the turnstiles against Everton’s youngsters. A decent following also went to Oldham in September.
With that in mind, the Reds will surely be keen to put on a show even if Oakwell will stage much more important league games this month against Portsmouth, Charlton Athletic and Peterborough United.
To be honest, we do not differentiate between league and cup matches. We are going for everything.Barnsley assistant Andreas Winkler
“We have a young squad and lots of players want to be in the first XI,” said Barnsley assistant head coach Andreas Winkler.
“To be honest, we do not differentiate between league and cup matches. We are going for everything.
“The plan is that everyone in the squad will be involved in all these important matches.
“We know that every player in the squad can show good performances and we have to use these players going through a very tough December.”
Tonight sees former Barnsley Under-23 coach Paul Harsley make his first return to Oakwell since leaving the club in the summer to become City’s elite development squad manager.
He took charge of the senior team on a caretaker basis against Sheffield Wednesday in February.
Last six games: Barnsley WWWDLW, Manchester City U21s WWDLWW.
Referee: O Yates (Staffordshire).
Last time: Never met.