To put it simply, Sunderland’s last venture to Oakwell was more than just memorable. Keane’s in-form Black Cats were made to work hard for victory but when it came it saw them record their ninth win in 11 Championship games. Grant Leadbitter opened the scoring in the second period before David Connolly caused pandemonium in the stands in the final minute when he slotted home, sending the vocal 8,000 travelling fans into raptures. And you all know what followed that. Champions. Grayson made no fewer than 10 changes at Carlisle United in midweek. The boss asked for his players to give him a selection headache and they did exactly that. Robbin Ruiter played his first senior minutes and produced a man of the match display which included a penalty save. Lynden Gooch, meanwhile, who has had to settle for a place on the bench so far this season, netted a winner 10 minutes from time – a fine reward for his tireless efforts all night. So, will they start at Oakwell? Grayson gave no clues away in his pre-match press conference but did admit he will wait until today to decide over the fitness of Bryan Oviedo and Brendan Galloway. Jack Rodwell, however, is likely to feature for the under-23s tonight Paul Heckingbottom will take charge of his 77th match as Barnsley’s boss tomorrow, since taking over as interim manager in February 2016 and then being appointing full-time in June last year. Heckingbottom’s rise at Oakwell has been mesmeric. The former Sunderland youngster forged a bright career in the game, helping Barnsley record League One play-off success in 2005-06, a year after enjoying the same feat with Sheffield Wednesday. Following his retirement in 2011, Heckingbottom became caretaker manager at Barnsley in 2015, and achieved instant success by winning the then Johnstone Paint Trophy and League One play-offs.
Heckingbottom since controlled relegation fears by successfully guiding the Tykes up the division to record a 14th place finish. It has been all change at Oakwell over the summer with no fewer than nine new faces joining the club and as many going out. Barnsley have so far recorded three defeats from their opening four league games which sees them placed just above the relegation zone, with newly promoted Sheffield United the latest side to get the better of them last weekend. Sunderland head to Oakwell this weekend with their own agenda, though. Victory will be in their minds after Tuesday’s Carabao Cup win at Carlisle United in the Carabao Cup boosted optimism following their first defeat to Leeds United on home soil last Saturday. And the lads can take heart from the history books, which highlight that they are unbeaten in their previous three matches at Oakwell. More than 4,000 fans will head to Oakwell this weekend as Sunderland hit the road for the fifth time – yes, the fifth time – in August. Just shy of 2,000 fans travelled to Brunton Park on Tuesday to watch the Lads overcome Carlisle United in the Carabao Cup, with thousands also making their way to Gigg Lane, Carrow Road and Hillsborough in recent weeks. Fans are advised not to travel to Oakwell if you don’t have a ticket as there will be no cash turnstiles in operation for traveling supporters.