AFTER being the hunter for the most part of this season, Barnsley will most definitely be the hunted at Bloomfield Road this afternoon.
While Barnsley have successfully traded punches and upset a number of firmly established and aspiring Championship sides this season, the boot will be firmly on the other foot with the Tangerines seeking to follow in the footsteps of what Altrincham did last season in shocking the Reds.
Not too much has gone wrong for Barnsley since the fateful November day in late 2015 when Alty knocked them out of the FA Cup at Moss Lane and left Lee Johnson hanging on to his job as manager.
There is still clearly respect for the FA Cup, more especially for a club who famously reached the last four of the competition nine seasons ago.
As with most football people, head coach Paul Heckingbottom believes that the world’s most enduring domestic cup competition is still something special, with his own select memory coming in 1999.
That came when he famously scored for Darlington in a third-round game at a star-studded Aston Villa, with the Quakers making history by being drawn as lucky losers to compete in round three.
The north-east outfit were picked out of a draw of 20 clubs who had lost second-round ties, with the extra place created after holders Manchester United pulled out of the 1999-2000 competition to play in the World Club Championship in Brazil.
For Heckingbottom and Barnsley, the Cup carries rather more resonance and the Reds certainly will not be short of support by the Fylde coast, with around 3,000 expectant fans descending upon the famous seaside town of Blackpool.
Heckingbottom, who has reiterated his hope that January will pass off with all his leading stars still at the club, said: “The FA Cup is the FA Cup and there’s a different feel and excitement about it. Careers have been made off the back of the Cup and I have said that to the players.
“It is a whole new audience and cup runs and games against big teams can really put you on the map as a player.
“We have experienced it before at Barnsley. You want a cup run because you want to ride that wave and feel that different buzz and excitement. You look at last season with a different cup run and look where it got us.
“We know the importance of a cup run and the excitement it can generate not only within the staff at the club, but the town and the fans.
“But for Blackpool, they have got a scalp in front of them and are at home where they are dangerous and have good players.
“They will be playing against a Championship team and looking to cause an upset.”
Heckingbottom has revealed that the club are discussing personal terms with loan midfielder Sam Morsy after a fee was agreed with Wigan, while the Reds’ chief has expressed delight that George Moncur has elected to come back to Oakwell and pledged to fight for his place after the end of his loan spell at Peterborough United.
Heckingbottom believes that Barnsley have shown a “really big commitment” in keeping Newcastle striker Adam Armstrong, who has re-signed on loan for the rest of the season.
The coach said: “George had a big decision to make – to stay at Peterborough or come back to Barnsley and he was adamant that he was going to come back and fight for his place.
“He knows it will be a big challenge as the midfielders have been doing terrifically. But, credit to him, he said he is going to knuckle down and give his all to try and stay in the team.”
Marc Roberts is back from suspension today while Armstrong is also eligible.
Saidy Janko should return from training next week, while Sessi D’Almeida is a long-term casualty.
Last six games: Blackpool DWLWDL Barnsley WLWWDW.
Referee: C Sarginson (Staffs).
Last time: Blackpool 1 Barnsley 1; September 15, 2015; League One.