Derby date with Sheffield United holds no fear for Barnsley boss

Barnsley manager Lee Johnson
Barnsley manager Lee Johnson
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Barnsley boss Lee Johnson wants his side to relish tomorrow’s South Yorkshire derby clash with Sheffield United.

The Reds hosts the Blades at Oakwell looking for a confidence-boosting win having lost nine of their last ten league matches.

And Johnson knows victory over their local rivals could see his side climb out of the League One relegation zone.

“It’s a massive game and good timing for us,” stressed Johnson. “I love big games, personally. You can’t fear them, you’ve got to go into them wanting to produce.

“I certainly do and I’m sure the players do. I’m sure we’re going to take the game to them because we’ve got players who, attacking-wise, are in form.”

The Reds are second from bottom in the standings following Tuesday night’s frustrating 3-2 away defeat to Peterborough United.

That loss has kept Johnson under pressure to keep his job, especially with the club having not won at home since a 2-0 win over Gillingham over two months ago. But Johnson remains confident the signs of progress are there and that he can guide the Reds out of trouble and up the table.

“We’ve looked potent in our last four or five games, which is a really positive sign because it shows we’re becoming the attacking force we thought we could be,” added Johnson. “We feel we can certainly go and affect a Sheffield United side.

“I’m surprised where we are and where they are in the table, but it just goes to show that football is not played on paper. You have to turn up, cut out individual errors and score goals. Neither team will be happy with how they’re going at the moment, but this is a game that can right a lot of wrongs. We have to make sure it’s us doing that. We’ve got to make sure we’re focused and we don’t give any charity away.”

The Blades are struggling themselves in 12th position, but Johnson joked: “I’ve got no sympathy for [manager] Nigel Adkins. I’ve got a tough enough job on my own!

“It’s a tough job, any job in football management is. “

Winger Ryan Williams could make his long-awaited return having recovered from a troublesome groin injury which has sidelined him since 12 September. The former Fulham playmaker has played just 29 minutes of first-team football this season.

“It’s a massive boost for us and the player to have him back,” admitted Johnson. “We’ve have to drip-feed him, but it’s good to have him fit.”

Southampton loan midfielder Lloyd Isgrove is expected to be available having limped off with a hamstring strain in Tuesday night’s loss to Posh, but loan defender Kevin long is suspended for the club’s next three matches.

Burnley centre-back Long was shown a straight red card in the 3-2 away defeat to Posh, which means Lewin Nyatanga and Marc Roberts are most likely to pair up at the heart of the Reds’ defence alongside Alfie Mawson.

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