Paupers Barnsley are poised to cash in

Football: Phil Shaw surveys the best of today's encounters in the Endsleigh League
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The Independent Online
Now that there is a cash register where the heart of English football used to be, the thought of a terminally unfashionable club like Barnsley lording it over the rest of the First Division tonight is especially gratifying.

One of the South Yorkshire town's favourite sons, Mick McCarthy, might dissent from that view. His Millwall side, leading Barnsley by a point, go to Portsmouth seeking only their second success in 15 visits, and with their fans under renewed scrutiny after the spanner-throwing at Reading.

McCarthy has the luxury of deciding whether to give a debut to a pounds 750,000 striker, Uwe Fuchs, or stick with another, Chris Malkin, who cost pounds 400,000. In contrast, Barnsley's early success, which follows on from sixth place in Danny Wilson's first season as manager, has been achieved with only one addition, Peter Shirtliff for pounds 125,000, to a largely home-grown team.

The comparisons with visiting Birmingham put Wilson's feats into even sharper relief. Barnsley's entire playing staff, including YTS boys, numbers 32. By making the Notts County centre-back Michael Johnson his 10th summer buy, in a deal to be resolved by a tribunal, Barry Fry has taken Birmingham's to 43. Barnsley have the division's most goals (10), while Blues have conceded most (nine), so it will probably finish 0-0.

Two of the promotion favourites, Leicester and Wolves, collide at Filbert Street in a contest bristling with sub-plots. One involves the antipathy, dating back to the 1980s, between Steve Walsh and Steve Bull, each having been sent off on separate occasions for tangling with the other.

Another features Darren Ferguson, son of Alex, whom Mark McGhee tried to sign amid much managerial bickering but is now back in favour with Taylor. The Scot's passing ability may be vital to Bull's chances of adding to his nine goals against Walsh and co - only three clubs have suffered more - and to Wolves' hopes of a second win in 18 attempts at Leicester.

Huddersfield's appearances at Charlton inevitably evoke memories of 1957, when they lost 7-6 after leading 10 men 5-1 with half an hour left. Johnny Summers, a left-footer, scored five second-half goals with his right for Charlton. The sides who step out at a vastly changed Valley today have so far managed six apiece.

West Brom's home fixture with Sheffield United has yet to finish goalless after 42 meetings. Such an outcome would represent an upturn for United, one of only two clubs in the four divisions without a point. The other is Plymouth Argyle, now managed by self-confessed Blades devotee Neil Warnock, whose new charges tackle Bury.

As relatively big spenders and the bookies' choice to win the Third Division, how Plymouth must envy Gillingham. The cash-strapped Kent club, who receive Colchester, defend a 100 per cent record which outstrips even Newcastle's in goals scored.

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