City’s victory against Southampton’s youngsters (and Olly Lancashire) was obviously overshadowed by the news of Matt Taylor and Wayne Carlisle departing for Rotherham, and Saturday’s trip to Barnsley will be overseen by Kevin Nicholson and Jon Hill. There is some good news thought to be emerging in terms of injuries with Harry Kite and Jonathan Grounds thought to be back in training, although Saturday may be too soon in terms of a return to the starting eleven therefore it could be an unchanged side once again that takes the field. Jamal Blackman pulled up late on in the Southampton match but saw out the remainder of the game without too many difficulties so hopefully it won’t impact his chances of starting at Barnsley.
Having reached the Championship playoffs in the 20/21 season, Barnsley’s fall from grace was spectacular last season as they managed to prop up the division with even Derby and their 21 point deduction four points ahead of them. The Tykes went for Cheltenham’s Michael Duff to lead their attempt at an immediate return, and so far things are going reasonably well with Barnsley fifth in the table and in great form with five wins and a draw in their last six in all competitions. Five clean sheets in 11 league fixtures so far suggests the defensive stability that Duff was known for at Cheltenham has transferred with him to his new club. Duff was busy during the summer with a number of signings including Nicky Cadden, a star of Forest Green’s promotion campaign, and two players who can (sort of in one case) count City amongst their former clubs – James Norwood, who was plucked out of non-league by City only to return there before rising up again, and Robbie Cundy, who was on loan to City for about 37 minutes in 2019 before going to Torquay instead. Both were on the scoresheet in a recent 3-0 win at Cambridge but top scorer is Devante “Son of Andy” Cole with four.
You could be forgiven for showing your age if you say you have seen City play Barnsley before – indeed this preview writer was a mere toddler the last time the sides met back in the 1980/81 season which saw Barnsley promoted to the second tier (coincidentally City’s next opponents, Charlton, also went up that season). It was the Tykes who emerged victorious in both fixtures that season, winning 1-0 both at Oakwell and the Park. However, City enjoy the lead in league head to heads with nine wins to Barnsley’s seven, four matches finishing level.
Referee: Martin Coy
Assistant Referees: Johnathon Bickerdike and Gary Hilton
Fourth Official: Lee Freeman
Last time he refereed Exeter City was 1-0 defeat away at Carlisle in January 2021.