After narrowly avoiding relegation last season, things are beginning to click for Keith Hill’s Barnsley side. Ian Wilkinson from Barnsley FC blog, On the Ponty End tells us what to expect from the home side.

After avoiding relegation last season, what are your expectations for 2012-13?

It probably seems too predictable to play the game and be grateful to just be in the Championship — after all, the media have Barnsley FC as the perennial favourites for relegation every season. Despite this, after several years, we continue to take our large scalps from time to time and seem to be just a small run of games from a mid-table to top 10 finish. My hope is that we can avoid the perils of a relegation dogfight at last and, for reasons I will discuss later on, get on with the task of bothering more teams, more often, in the top half.

What’s the general consensus on manager Keith Hill?

‘In Keith Hill We Trust’ appears to be the mantra of many a supporter nowadays. Even in the bleak second half of 2011/12, the team continued to play the game in a manner that supporters could admire. It was also evident that this particular managerial duo of Keith Hill and David Flitcroft could identify and improve talent. Whatever is happening at Barnsley is not the result of just one man though. Forest fans will appreciate the importance of a Peter Taylor character in the club and Flitcroft is playing that role rather well.

Have there been many changes since last season?

Personnel wise, Vaz Te disappeared in the January transfer window – and got West Ham back in to the Premier League. Jacob Butterfield, former captain and academy starlet has gone to explore life at a higher level with Norwich City. This season, the starting XI has not seen many changes. Ben Alnwick has taken over in the nets of late due to an on-going injury (now resolved) for Luke Steel. A solid shot-stopper with good distribution, he’s been ample cover and has had some cracking performances this season. Midfielder Jacob Mellis has rejoined the club, following his previous stint on loan from Chelsea on a permanent deal, as well as Tomasz Cywka, an attacking midfielder from Derby.

What can we expect tactically?

This one is very difficult to predict, as ‘HillCroft’ will have done their homework on Forest thoroughly and will set them up accordingly. We’ve seen different formations both home and away and the current personnel are extremely adaptable to perhaps unlimited permutations, your guess would be as good as mine. Barnsley’s game is based on possession and passing, don’t expect any long ball tactics.

Who are the key players to watch out for?

Easy. David Perkins is in fine form at the moment, operating in an attacking role just behind the strikers. After man-of-the-match performances against Charlton and Palace, we all hope he can replicate those standards against Forest. Perhaps it’s also worth your while observing John Stones, our (Academy product) right-back. In my opinion, he will be playing for one of the so-called ‘top four’ within the next three years and will be an England international. His skill, maturity, physique and application is way beyond his 18 years. I wonder if Ladbrokes would back my judgement?

What’s going to happen on Saturday?

For the neutral, they should expect to see an excellent game of football, especially if Sean O’Driscoll is developing Forest along similar lines to his former club Doncaster Rovers. Perhaps both sets of supporters might find the game being played ‘beautifully’ a bit frustrating, especially when a shot from 25-30 yards seems to be the most obvious option, rather than pass-pass-pass-pass-pass! But, I would rather see this, that Warnock-esque Route One pitch battles.

We’re always capable of providing something special ‘a-la-Birmingham’ (5-0 at St Andrew’s), so my heart says a significant win could be on the cards yet again this season. But my head suggests that in the end, both sides might just cancel each other out and a draw is the most likely outcome, with the real Reds, BFC, squandering another opportunity to bag three precious home points.

Follow On the Ponty End on Twitter: @onthepontyend

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Image: Jeff Pearson (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

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