Imps fans will be hopeful of a win over Barnsley at the Bank this evening, writes Tom Morton.
Although I think more than anything they’ll be hoping for a slightly calmer event than on Saturday. The Tykes need a point from their last five games to mathematically guarantee a playoff spot (although they are pretty secure at this point) and are still close enough to the top three to be called “in contention” for automatics. Indeed there is a decent chance they will pass Sheffield on points by the end of the season.
Then you have to look at recent results. On the face of it thumping Forest Green 5-1 away from home on Saturday feels daunting. But the men in green have been all but relegated for a while and I think effectively have given up. Certainly against a decent team like Barnsley.
But beyond that, actually, the stats are pretty promising. Our resurgent form has seen us pick up ten points in five games. In comparison, our opponents tonight have managed nine in five. They have excellent home form, true, but away they are a bit less impressive. Yes, they have one of the top away records in the league, but their PPG is 1.67, against our 1.55 at the home this season. Our home performance sits mid-table but I think our run of draws under-plays how good our form is.
On top of this, we have already beaten Barnsley twice away from home this season. And my takeaway from those games is that this is a side that, like a lot of the top order, can struggle against a solid defensive setup. In fact our record against the top six is pretty standout, losing only three of eleven games (and two of those were to Peterborough).
With our recent form, all of that makes for an exciting match tonight in the spring sunshine.
In the January window, the Tykes did very little business, largely shedding bit-part players to lower leagues. One unusual bit of business they did was sell keeper Jack Walton to Luton Town and in return got Harry Ishted back on loan. Ishted wasn’t getting games with Luton and clearly, Barnsley felt the need for a fresh face between the sticks. Walton had been a key part of their Championship squad but has rarely featured this season – although he’s not yet made an appearance for Luton either.
Another face of note will be James Norwood, who has a reputation for picking up red cards against us. He’s on ten goals for the season, somewhat behind lead scorer Devante Cole. Cole will be the danger man, he’s scored nearly half of his fifteen-goal tally in the last ten games.
On the injuries front Barnsley look OK, with the full squad expected to travel today. That could play to our advantage though; with playoffs essentially secured and automatic promotion looking fairly remote, manager Michael Duff could well play it safe to protect players for the final games.
One thing I think is a positive for us is that Mark Kennedy doesn’t seem to be approaching the run-in as a “dead duck”. As unlikely as it is we could, with a freak set of results, still finish sixth. A result today could see us hit 10th and realistically we are then scrapping with Shrewsbury to keep that spot at the end of the season. Given they are our final game that could make for a genuinely interesting finish.
Tonight will be a tough game that will definitely test our run of form. Ease our way through it and things look very positive.