Daniel Stendel and Jose Gomes were sacked one day apart at the beginning of October, taking the flak for starts which had put their Barnsley and Reading sides 23rd and 22nd respectively in the Championship relegation zone.
The Royals acted quickly in finding a replacement, making the surprise appointment of sporting director Mark Bowen five days after waving ‘Adeus’ to Portuguese boss Gomes. Their decisiveness proved successful though as they took 10 points from the next four matches, and they have sat a little more comfortably in 18th place now for the past month.
In contrast, there were 42 days between Barnsley saying ‘Auf Wiedersehen’ to Stendel and appointing the Austrian Gerhard Struber in his place, in which time they slumped to plum last in the table and looked highly likely to remain there.
New optimism came at Oakwell when they finally picked up their first win since the opening round of the season in beating Hull on the final day of November. However, they soon returned to old habits by dropping points late on the road, with a 94th-minute winner seeing them make the long trip back from Cardiff with nothing at the weekend.
Six points off safety, an immediate return to League One is far from guaranteed just yet, but Struber will need to make his mark soon. He made a winning start at Oakwell last time around and backing up the superb display against Hull is essential.
Reading travel to Yorkshire on the back of disappointment themselves, with Bowen highly critical of his side after a 3-2 loss at home to Birmingham at the weekend. Three defeats in four have tempered early optimism and a win will do as much good for him as it will for Struber with honeymoon periods coming to an end.
Barnsley hope to have Aapo Halme fit for the game despite the young Finn, who has been playing as a holding midfielder in the past couple of matches, having an ankle issue.
Mallik Wilks has yet to feature since Struber took charge of the Tykes but the winger may have recovered sufficiently from illness to feature against Reading.
Full-back Andy Yiadom picked up a knee injury during Reading’s defeat to Birmingham at the weekend which could rule the Ghana international out of the trip to Oakwell.
Bowen hopes to be boosted by the returns of Jordan Obita (illness) and Sam Baldock (hamstring), while Ovie Ojaria also missed out last time with a groin problem. John Swift remains sidelined by a hamstring injury.
What the managers have said
Struber struck a very confident tone in front of the media as he looked ahead to the clash.
He said: “Reading is a very good team with good build-up (play). I hope that we create a good plan and have very good pressing so we will have chances to win balls in the opponents’ half.
“I am very positive for tomorrow. Reading will be the first opponent tomorrow to feel the full power of Barnsley.”
Counterpart Bowen said of his Reading side: “I expect a reaction from my players when we play Barnsley and we won’t look any further ahead than that.
“We’ll bounce back from the defeat on Saturday, I’m sure. We have a good group of lads in the dressing room and they’ll all want to come back strong on Wednesday.
“The biggest thing for me to get across to the lads is that although we didn’t get the win at the weekend, as a group we are still looking upwards, forwards and focusing on how we can catch those teams above us and climb the table.”