Tuesday night’s visit of Barnsley to Cardiff City Stadium is the first of a quick-fire three home games across the space of eight days which are crucial to City’s promotion run-in.
In their last two fixtures, the Tykes have taken four points from a possible six against sides in the nPower Championship’s top seven. A convincing 2-0 win over Leicester City at Oakwell on April 1 was followed by a goalless draw at Selhurst Park against Crystal Palace at the weekend. They were the latest successful outings in the upturn of the club’s fortunes since the appointment of David Flitcroft as manager, rising from the bottom of the table to their current position of one point outside the relegation zone. Flitcroft has won over half of his games in charge of the Reds.
This fixture was initially pencilled in for March 9th, but Flitcroft defied the expectations when he guided the club to the Sixth Round of the FA Cup. Though they were ultimately thumped by Manchester City at the Etihad, Barnsley have won three of their five league games since then. Looking at the form table, only Bolton have a better record at home than Barnsley over the last five games, but their away record is comparatively less impressive, taking five points from five.
Form indicates City will open the scoring on Tuesday night: Barnsley have only done so in a third of their matches this season. However, when they do score first, Barnsley are the fourth-best side in the league at holding onto a lead when they go in ahead at the break.
Key Players: The Barnsley player who will be most familiar to fans of Cardiff City is Kelvin Etuhu, the midfielder who made sixteen appearances for the club while on loan from Manchester City in the 2009/10 season. Having made twenty-four appearances this term, Etuhu is having his busiest season as a professional so far, having become a regular feature of Flitcroft’s starting eleven.
Another player who has spent time playing in Wales is Jason Scotland, who was part of Swansea City’s 2008 League One winning side. Scotland, a striker known for his strength, has scored twice against Cardiff while playing for Ipswich Town in the last three years, so will be a key concern if selected this time out. With five goals, he is the joint-top scorer in the league for the Tykes this season, alongside former Derby midfielder Tomasz Cywka, former Chelsea player Jacob Mellis and Chris Dagnall, who has notched five additional goals in cup competitions.
The much-travelled defender Martin Cranie has made more appearances than any other Barnsley player season this season, and will face his former Coventry City team-mates Aron Gunnarsson and Ben Turner at Cardiff City Stadium. Goalkeeper Luke Steele looks to have regained his position as first-choice after former Spurs reserve Ben Alnwick.
Previous Meetings: Cardiff have won twenty-two of the forty-two encounters between the sides, with Barnsley winning eleven of the remaining twenty. One hundred and ten goals have come in the fixtures, sixty-six of those for the Welsh side.
Last year’s home clash with the Tykes was an eight-goal thriller. A double from Aron Gunnarsson plus strikes from Kenny Miller, Joe Mason and Don Cowie overcame Barnsley’s three goals from former Bluebird Danny Drinkwater, Jimmy McNulty and Ricardo Vaz Te in one of the most entertaining games yet at CCS. The away game was a more modest affair, but resulted in another City win: Liam Lawrence with the only goal of the game for Cardiff.
Last meeting: Barnsley 1-2 Cardiff City (24/11/12)
Ben Nugent scored on his full debut, heading in a Peter Whittingham corner as Cardiff picked up another important three points toward their promotion push. Aron Gunnarsson doubled the lead in identical fashion not long after half-time before Jake Mellis got a consolation for the Tykes.
Simon Lappin, also making his debut, was shown a red card for collecting two bookings, but the home side could not make their man-advantage pay, David Marshall making two late saves.
Barnsley Line-up: Steele, Golbourne, Dawson (Buzsaky), Davies, Done (Noble-Lazarus), Wiseman, McNulty, Mellis, Cranie, Greening, Tudgay (Sinclair). Not used: Foster, O'Brien, Lidakevicius, Stones.
Cardiff City Line-up: Marshall, Hudson, Whittingham, Connolly, Kim, Noone, Gunnarsson (Mutch), Mason (Bellamy), Helguson (Gestede), Lappin, Nugent. Not used: Conway, Ralls, Lewis, John.