Huddersfield Town v Barnsley: What a difference a year makes in the fortunes of Yorkshire Championship rivals the Terriers and Reds

IN the most feted meeting of these two Yorkshire rivals on either side of the Emley Moor mast, everyone present was a winner. Except Peterborough United.

The date was May 4, 2013 and the venue was Huddersfield Town’s John Smith’s Stadium as Barnsley and the hosts celebrated retaining their second-tier status after a 2-2 draw on ‘Survival Saturday’ – the most unforgettable and bizarre final day of a season that you could possibly imagine.

It ended with scores of relieved Town fans pouring onto the pitch and heading towards their rivals in the away end. A delicious refrain of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ soon filled the air on a day when poor Posh were relegated.

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Sadly, there will be no mutual love-in this evening on an occasion when Barnsley will drop into the third tier for the third time in nine seasons if they fail to win.

Tough baptism: Barnsley head coach Poya Asbaghi has failed to halt the slide towards relegation. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Needing three points to secure a play-off spot, Huddersfield will afford them no favours.

Even if Barnsley pull off a major shock and win tonight, they were still be relegated this weekend if Reading prevail at Hull City.

At his pre-match press conference, the body language of Poya Asbaghi displayed someone who was feeling the rigours of a stressful season. This despite only being at the Reds helm for 153 days.

With Barnsley’s relegation having an air of inevitability about it given recent events, it has understandably taken its toll on him. He wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

Year to forget: The Reds have won just once away from home since winning at Town on April 21 last season, left. Picture: Tony Johnson

In the now, the Reds and Asbaghi must dutifully fight on before decisions are made on the futures of players and staff.

A clause is included in Asbaghi’s contract which can be invoked if relegation is confirmed.

On his future, the Reds head coach said: “In the end, there is not going to be a decision that it is not going to gain both (parties).

“We have been pretty open with what we want and have not excluded anything and there have been mutual discussions.

Experienced defender: Huddersfield Town's Tom Lees has made a big difference to the side this season. Picture: Isaac Parkin/PA Wire.

“We will comment more after this season as we have said that we will take discussions better if we concentrate on the games that are left (first). There is no reason to stress things (now) – neither for my part or the club.”

For those brave Barnsley diehards in the away end tonight, minds might just wistfully recall those events on that day in Huddersfield almost nine years ago when both sides stayed up.

Or more recently to almost a year ago to the day on April 21, 2021 when the Reds won to put themselves on the brink of the play-off participation. How times have changed.

Whatever happens tonight, Reds supporters – who have seen their side pitifully win just once in 25 matches on their travels in all competitions since that away triumph at Town – deserve to see some fight at the very least.

Asbaghi added: “It is up to us to make sure that if we do get relegated, we do it in a way where there is still some fight and still show some promising things.”

While the role of Asbaghi and more especially predecessor Markus Schopp will be deemed as key contributory factors to any relegation, recruitment, more especially last summer, will be viewed as perhaps the biggest.

It might just be fully exposed on a night like tonight against a Town side whose transfer business in the last close season was everything that Barnsley’s wasn’t.

It was swift, smart and cost-effective, with the signings of the experienced trio of Tom Lees, Matty Pearson and Lee Nicholls addressing key deficiencies, while a young player of promise arrived in Jon Russell. A big talent came on loan in Levi Colwill.

By contrast, Barnsley’s recruitment seemed scattergun by contrast and is something the club’s head coaches cannot be blamed for when there is a post-mortem into a fraught 2021-22 campaign.

Questioned about Town’s approach and if Barnsley can learn from it, Asbaghi – who has confirmed that Michal Helik is unlikely to play again this season – said: “I think Barnsley can learn from a lot of things and clubs, not only from Huddersfield.

“There’s other clubs who can learn from Barnsley, even if we don’t feel like it now as it looks like we’re getting relegated. Some can learn about having a good balance in the bank account.

“Of course, if you want to be a successful team, you need a good balanced squad.

“Huddersfield look a well-balanced team and they have a good mix of young and experienced players.

“They have good cover if somebody gets injured and clear strengths. They have players that are going to score, make assists, be strong and defend in the box.

“Of course, with that kind of structure and good coaching as well, then you can have a season like Huddersfield have.”