Match Preview: Barnsley v Northampton Town

We’ve reached the final game of the season and the Cobblers travel north to Oakwell to take on a Barnsley side who have had a week of change and who come into the game still needing a result to confirm a playoff place. The Tykes know that victory against the Cobblers will secure fifth spot and a place in the end of season lottery but there’s plenty of uncertainty around that makes the weekend game very difficult to predict.
 
After last weekend’s defeat at Blackpool – seen as the culmination of a dreadful run of performances and results – Barnsley sacked head coach Neil Collins with just one game to go and that playoff spot still to fight for. It was seen as a calculated gamble that needed to be made if they were to give their run at the top six the best possible chance to succeed.
 
So, with question marks still hanging over the new head coach at time of writing, this should be an intriguing final assignment for the Cobblers. We’ll say a final goodbye to our loanees with Marc Leonard and Keiron Bowie in particular set for emotional farewells after two years with the club. There’s set to be a whole collection of Scottish based outfits, the usual inflatables and a cracker of an atmosphere. Whether the sense of fun will be shared by the home sections of Oakwell will depend on the result.
 

The Opposition

Barnsley appointed Neil Collins as head coach last summer to replace the outgoing Michael Duff with the former Tampa Bay Rowdies man given the task of matching the following season’s run to the playoffs, where they were beaten by Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in the playoff final. The campaign got off to a good start with a 2-1 victory at Sixfields in September their fifth win from the opening nine games and one that took them to fifth in League One. The Tykes have remained in and around the top six ever since.
 
There was a brief moment, as recently as early March, when they were close enough to the top two to dream of a shot at avoiding the playoffs altogether but a 98th minute equaliser for Bolton at Oakwell seemed to set in motion a drop in performances that ended with Collins’ departure this week. A 5-1 home defeat by Lincoln was followed by victory at doomed Carlisle but one win in the last eight games, with none in the last five, forced the owner’s hands.
 
The hope for Barnsley now is that the removal of Collins at the very least leads to an upturn in the atmosphere on Saturday that would lift the players enough to grab one of the final two playoff spots available. Their job is simple – win and they’re in – but any slip would allow the likes of Lincoln, Oxford and Blackpool to smell blood.
 
With no official appointment on the horizon, it looks like it’s down to caretaker manager Martin Devaney to get the job done on Saturday as Jon Brady’s side look to plant a real curve ball into the promotion shake up.
 

Last Time Out

Barnsley were beaten 3-2 at fellow playoff hopefuls Blackpool last weekend while the Cobblers lost 2-1 at home to Exeter City.

One To Watch

On loan midfielder John McAtee has shone for Barnsley this season after joining from Luton Town in the summer. McAtee was a standout performer for Grimsby in their promotion to the Football League in 2022 and went back out on loan to the Mariners for the 2022/23 season after signing for Luton.
 
He’s scored fifteen times in all competitions this season as well as contributing five assists and has the talent to take hold of games, create and be a constant threat behind a main striker.

Team News

Barnsley midfielders Luca Connell and Jon Russell have been out for the last couple of weeks and will be doubts once again while defender Robbie Cundy is still on the comeback trail having been out for nearly a year. Josh Benson hasn’t played a game since November and recently suffered a new set back but could still play a part.
 
The Cobblers are in a rare position of being at full fitness but Louie Moulden missed out last weekend and will be assessed ahead of the trip to Oakwell. Tyler Magloire is almost ready for a return but may not be risked again until pre-season.
 

Line-Up Prediction

Match Officials

Ollie Yates is the designated referee for Saturday. Yates was recently in charge of the Cobblers’ 2-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers. Emily Carney and Jacob Lehane are running the lines and Richie Watkins is fourth official.

Prediction

The Cobblers are probably one of the better sides that Barnsley could face at the moment when needing a result and I think the managerial change and the improvement in the atmosphere will be enough to get them over the line. I think Marc Leonard has one last strike in him, though! 3-1 Barnsley

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