Tykes travel to Crystal Palace
6 April ~ What's this? We're in April and Barnsley are still winning. A sure-fire prediction every season over the last half dozen is that the Tykes are rubbish after New Year, whether because of a small squad or the sale of top players (such as Ricardo Vaz Tê last year). But this year it's been all change. Adrift at the bottom of the Championship coming to the end of 2012, since then the Reds have amassed 26 points from just 15 games. They have also gone on an pretty impressive run to the FA Cup quarter-finals.
Even more encouraging has been that the occasional setback, such as the unlucky away loss to rival strugglers Peterborough or the 5-3 defeat at Ashton Gate, has not resulted in shattered confidence but rather seen a quick bounce back.
Credit for this goes to David Flitcroft, who took over from Keith Hill as manager at the end of last year. He wasn't first choice – both Sean O'Driscoll and Terry Butcher were offered the job before the board turned to Hill's former number two for the remainder of the season. Flitcroft has picked up the tempo of Barnsley's game and nurtured a more direct approach, with the ball moved forward quickly; what the team lacks in talent and craft, it makes up for in hard work.
That being said, today's game at Selhurst Park is not viewed with any great relish. Logistically, it's by far the worst away journey for Reds fans and goodness knows how anyone ever found Selhurst Park before sat-nav. Nor has the endless journey down the M1 and through south London's congested streets ever produced much in the way of rewards. Barnsley have enjoyed just two wins in 20 years at Palace – one of these being courtesy of a Neil Redfearn goal which earned the Reds their first ever Premier League win in 1997.
With Ian Holloway's Eagles 16 places above us, the wise money favours a home team banker. However, Palace's recent record is not good with just one win from their last five games (compared with three for Barnsley). In fact, their jittery form is shared by many of the Championship's other top teams, contrasting with the impressive results of the basement clubs which has dragged half the division into the relegation fight. Holloway believes his Palace team need a tonic after shipping eight goals in the past three games. Normally, a visit by today's opponents would be ideal but given recent form a draw looks on the cards, or – whisper it quietly – a rare Barnsley win. Richard Darn