Stakes are high at the top and bottom for Yorkshire clubs

HEAD coach David Wagner is confident ahead of this afternoon's key Premier League home game with Watford that Huddersfield Town will hold their nerve.

David Wagner: Time for cool heads, says Huddersfield's head coach.

Fifth-from-bottom Town can record just their second top-flight double since April, 1956 this afternoon as they chase only their second home league win since December 9.

But of far more consequence to Town is claiming three precious and potentially definitive points in their safety mission against the Hornets, whom they beat 4-1 in the reverse fixture at Vicarage Road in mid-December.

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There will also be considerable tension across Yorkshire at Oakwell, Bramall Lane and the Riverside Stadium today, where Barnsley, Sheffield United and Middlesbrough host direct rivals in three Championship ‘six-pointers’.

It has all the portents of being an afternoon of major consequence for four White Rose clubs.

The stakes are high for Town ahead of their meeting with mid-table Watford, heightened by an arduous run-in that sees them face games against Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal before the season’s end on May 13.

But, in typical fashion, Wagner is urging his side, who are four points above third-from-bottom Southampton, who have a game in hand – to recognise the value of cool heads in the critical part of the club’s season.

Applying further logic he believes that Town, without a league win in five games, can draw upon last season’s experiences in a tense finale to help see them through to their current objective.

Wagner said: “Mental strength is one of the most important things. Experiences we had last season will help – they help me.

“In football you do not have to fear anything, anything can happen if you have the right group.

“If we have one thing for sure then we have the spirit and atmosphere in our dressing room to be competitive. This is what makes us competitive.

“This is what makes me confident that we really have the chance to get the last points we need from the last five games.”

After last weekend’s thrilling derby victory over Sheffield United, Barnsley are seeking an Oakwell encore. They aim to record back-to-back home league wins for the first time since late August in a huge Roses encounter with the side just above them in the Championship table in Bolton Wanderers.

Victory would see the third-from-bottom Reds leapfrog the Lancastrians and move out of the drop zone with Jose Morais’s side also having a game in hand.

Assistant head coach Dimas Teixeira said: “The boys know, with the words and confidence we give them, that they are highly prepared and we will win this game for sure. A win will obviously give us a very positive atmosphere for the next games and we will go out of the relegation zone.

“We want as many fans as possible in the stadium for the Bolton game. I think they are starting to believe more that the team is capable.”

An intriguing double header in the race for the play-offs sees four candidates square-off with ninth-placed Blades hosting the side occupying the final top-six spot, in-form side Millwall, while seventh-placed Middlesbrough entertain the side just below them in Bristol City.

Just three points separate the Blades and fifth-placed Derby County, with Brentford and Preston North End still in with an outside chance of gatecrashing the top six.

After their priceless midweek home win over Boro, manager Chris Wilder is hoping to crown his 100th game in charge of the Blades in fitting fashion with another noteworthy victory against a Millwall side unbeaten in their past 16 matches and chasing their eighth away win in nine games.

Wilder said: “Both teams have put themselves in a fantastic position. Millwall have been on a fantastic run since Christmas. I’d imagine neither side would have been expected to be in the positions they find themselves in.

“We have felt strong at home for quite a while now. There have not been many times when we have taken a step back and thought ‘wow, this is something else we’re having to deal with here’.

“We feel we have competed very well and are a little frustrated we have not got a few more points on the board. For us to go into the last four games of the season still in with a shout – in such an interesting scenario – is great.

“We are fighting, we are not taking a backwards step, we are attacking teams. From our point of view it’s been an excellent season and we want to make it a memorable one.”