The League One play-offs get underway this evening...
Saturday, 14th May 2016 (Kick-off 5.30pm)
League One Play-off Semi-final first-leg
Walsall travel to Barnsley this evening for the first leg of their League One play-off semi-final. The Saddlers finished the regular league season in third place, ten points ahead of Paul Heckingbottom’s Tykes, who came sixth. Both teams are in excellent form; Walsall have won eight of Jon Whitney’s 12 matches in charge, while Barnsley – who won the JPT last month – have lost one in ten. Walsall won 2-0 at Oakwell in October, although Heckingbottom’s men prevailed 3-1 in the reverse fixture in March.
FINAL LEAGUE STANDINGS:
Barnsley: 6th – P46 W22 D8 L16 F70 A54 PTS74
Walsall: 3rd – P46 W24 D12 L10 F71 A49 PTS84
LAST FIVE LEAGUE MATCHES: (Most recent match first)
LAST TIME OUT:
8th May – Wigan 1-4 Barnsley – League One
Barnsley secured a play-off place after coming from behind to thrash champions Wigan. Will Grigg fired Wigan ahead but the Tykes hit back, thanks to a Sam Winnall brace and further strikes from Conor Hourihane and Josh Brownhill. The Latics’ Chris McCann was sent off late on.
Team: Davies, G Williams, Mawson, Roberts, Scowen, Hammill, Hourihane, Brownhill, Isgrove (McCourt 79’), Fletcher (Chapman 78’), Winnall (Toney 84’). Subs not used: Nyatanga, Townsend, Tuton, White.
8th May – Port Vale 0-5 Walsall – League One
Five-star Walsall were forced to settle for a place in the League One play-offs despite a resounding final-day victory at Port Vale. Anthony Forde scored twice, while Paul Downing, Tom Bradshaw and Sam Mantom were also on the scoresheet.
Team:Etheridge, Demetriou, O’Connor, Downing, Henry, Chambers, Morris (Mantom 64’), Lalkovic (Cook 84’), Forde, Sawyers, Bradshaw (Hiwula 76’).
Subs not used: MacGillivray, Taylor, Preston, Osbourne.
Walsall wins: 16
5th March 2016 – Walsall 1-3 Barnsley – League One
Walsall parted company with Sean O’Driscoll the day after this 3-1 defeat against Barnsley. Ash Fletcher’s impressive run and finish put the visitors ahead, only for Tom Bradshaw’s 16th goal of the season to draw the Saddlers level before half-time. Barnsley took charge after the break, with Josh Brownhill’s 25-yarder and Harry Chapman’s breakaway goal sealing a deserved win.
BARNSLEY CARETAKER MANAGER:
Paul Heckingbottom – The 38-year-old has won 11 of his 19 matches as caretaker manager and guided the Tykes to JPT glory last month. The former Manchester United trainee was a member of the Barnsley squad that won promotion from League One via the play-offs in 2005/06. He also played for Darlington, Bradford and Sheffield Wednesday to name but a few.
BARNSLEY STAR MAN:
Ashley Fletcher – The 20-year-old has plundered seven goals in 24 appearances for Barnsley since signing on loan from Manchester United in January 2016. He scored the Tyles’ first goal in a 3-1 victory over Walsall back in March and also netted in the 3-2 JPT final success over Oxford. The Keighley-born striker started out with Bolton before moving to Old Trafford in 2009, aged 13.
VIEW FROM THE BARNSLEY CAMP:
Paul Heckingbottom (on Walsall) – “Over the season, they’ve been the most consistent of us four in the play-offs. They have a brand of football which Dean Smith established and Jon Whitney has carried that on. If you did a blanket survey of everyone in football, you’d be hard pressed to split us. We’re most similar to Walsall and Bradford and Millwall are similar, which will make for a contrasting final for whoever gets there.”
WALSALL TEAM NEWS:
Midfielder Reece Flanagan (ACL) is out.
STAT OF THE DAY:
Walsall are competing in the play-offs for the fourth time in their history. We achieved promotion in 1988 and 2001, but fell short in 1993.