TWO appointments in dockland cities are likely to hold a tremendous amount of significance to Barnsley’s fate this season – starting this afternoon.
Just over 2,000 Reds supporters make the trip to Fratton Park in hope, with Daniel Stendel’s second-placed side seeking to extend their unbeaten sequence to 14 matches and more importantly increase – or at least maintain – their current buffer over fourth-placed Portsmouth.
As it stands, Barnsley hold a five-point advantage over Pompey, who have lost just once in 19 home matches against the Reds since 1980.
Ameliorating that sequence with a cherished win today would provide the Reds with a huge psychological boost and represent a potentially definitive result in their season – just as an Easter Monday trip to Plymouth Argyle also carries the portents of being a red-letter day in the club’s campaign on April 22.
Assistant head coach Dale Tonge said: “We all know how big a game it is; we are not going to shy away from it and we are going to tackle it head-on and it is something that the boys are looking forward to.
“We have got 2,000 fans going through the turnstiles and a lot of barcodes being scanned and fans being there and it is going to be a great opportunity and occasion.
We have got 2,000 fans going through the turnstiles and a lot of barcodes being scanned and fans being there and it is going to be a great opportunity and occasionDale Tonge
“I have played there myself and it is a great atmosphere and cauldron.”
Barnsley’s recent form may have been of the stand-out variety, but they face a Pompey side in need of a timely boost in their own ailing promotion mission.
After a strong opening half of the campaign in which their designs upon automatic promotion were showcased impressively, Kenny Jackett’s side are in the midst of a worrying seven-match winless league sequence, compounded by the surrendering of a 3-0 lead in last weekend’s painful draw at Southend.
Barnsley are aiming to add to their difficulties today but Tonge is not reading too much into their recent ailments.
He added: “They had an outstanding start in league and cup. Maybe the games have caught up with them, but they are still an outstanding team and they came here and, although we were by far the better team on the day, they did a job.
“They are a really professional and organised team and we are expecting nothing less than a very organised Kenny Jackett team, who will push us to our limits.
“We are going to have to perform on the day to beat them.”