Fading Portsmouth seek stealing catalyst they inspired in rejuvenated Barnsley
Pompey had removed Barnsley from the six jostling for supremacy at League One’s summit.
For Saturday’s rematch, it’s now Kenny Jackett’s men scrambling to retain faltering interest in the upper echelons of the league.
While the mid-December draw has proven the catalyst to Barnsley’s season, the Blues’ own momentum continues to drag them down the table.
Since that 1-1 Oakwell outcome which nudged the Tykes disconcertingly into seventh, boss Daniel Stendel has overseen an unbeaten 12-match run.
Of those fixtures, nine have been victories, yielding 30 points from a potential 36.
It’s a remarkable upsurge initiated by the German which has lifted Barnsley into second spot, five points clear of third-placed Sunderland.
Crucially, in Pompey eyes, the South Yorkshire club were 12 points adrift. Today – barely two months later – Jackett’s men languish six behind.
That is the extent of the alarming contrast between the clubs during a period which is threatening to define the automatic promotion place behind Luton.
Jackett’s men have taken 13 points from a possible 33 since last encountering Barnsley, of which three have been league wins, while performances have been largely appalling.
In addition, there have been 18 goals conceded in 11 league matches, with not a single clean sheet registered.
With Barnsley scheduled to visit Fratton Park on Saturday, there remains an opportunity for the hosts to reinvigorate their diminishing automatic promotion hopes.
Certainly the sides were evenly matched at Oakwell, with Cauley Woodrow’s second-half finish cancelling out Gareth Evans’ opener.
It was an outcome both sides were satisfied with following a tough tussle on a bitterly-cold Yorkshire day approaching Christmas.
A wounded Barnsley had lost the previous match at Wycombe, which ultimately would prove their most recent league defeat.
As for the Blues, they had suffered a midweek loss to Charlton in the build-up, representing only a second reverse during an outstanding opening 21 League One fixtures.
So honours even, nonetheless pushing the Tykes into seventh place, with Doncaster leapfrogging over them.
What has occurred since is the newly-relegated Championship team collecting 17 more points than Pompey’s return and a rise of five places.
They face a worryingly out-of-sorts Blues team without a league win in seven games and deprived of a clean sheet in 13.
At least both sides matched each other on Tuesday night, with separate draws maintaining the current six-point gap.
Yet Pompey require their own catalyst to revitalise a season in danger of drifting.
Just like Barnsley managed following the previous clash between two clubs with pre-season aspirations of breaking into the Championship.