Keith Hill gave an honest and brutal post-match interview after Barnsley's 2-0 defeat to Burnley in midweek and we reckon his players will respond by charging out of the blocks against beleaguered Portsmouth on Saturday. Back Barnsley to win the first half at 19/10.
Hill doesn't often criticise his players, and his version of events at Turf Moor wasn't directed with any malice in a way that could harm his close bond with the dressing room, but one assumes the players will get the message that Hill demands a certain attitude from them.
Energy, enthusiasm and determination were the buzzwords in what Hill refers to as the team's staple diet and this high-intensity approach from the first whistle perhaps goes some way towards explaining why the Tykes boast one of the best first-half records in the Championship. In 30 matches played so far, the Yorkshire club have been ahead 13 times at the break. Only leaders West Ham have taken an interval more often.
An outburst from Hill has been coming but he has a habit of timing them to perfection. Barnsley have been poor in recent weeks and it's probably no coincidence that their performances have dropped with the loss of key players. Jacob Butterfield is out for the season after doing his cruciate, Danny Drinkwater was whipped away and sold to Leicester and Ricardo Vaz Te made a surprise deadline day move to West Ham.
However, Hill has brought in replacements who will no doubt find their A-game under his guidance and he won't tolerate anybody feeling for sorry for themselves. With Stephen Dawson, Scott Golbourne, Korey Smith, Michael Tonge and now David Cotterill recruited and presumably settled, it was time to give everyone a kick up the backside.
How Portsmouth will respond to a ten-point deduction for going back into adminstration is anyone's guess but you would assume it's more likely to have an adverse effect than a positive one.
Michael Appleton's first managerial post is proving to be a real baptism of fire and he has coped admirably so far but the worst might yet be to come in terms of trying to motivate dejected players. Pompey have already delivered a couple of stiff-upper-lip performances in recent weeks but one wonders how many times Appleton can go that particular well.
Survival is obviously the target but their deduction might also have the additional sting of motivating Barnsley. Hill is notoriously unsympathetic towards clubs have lived beyond their means, so we shouldn't doubt that he will be highlighting the possibility of going 17 points clear of the bottom four with 15 games to go. The Tykes aren't really in trouble but, by the same token, they're not about to start getting ideas above their station.
We would consider 11/8 on Barnsley to win the game or the 11/4 about being offered on the Barnsley/Barnsley double result but, they do have a tendency to fade in games late on, so the 19/10 on them being ahead at the interval is, pound for pound, the best option all round.
2pts Barnsley to win the first half against Portsmouth at 2/1 (Stan James)