By Tony Leighton
In-form Brighton and Hove Albion will be aiming to extend their best run of the season and step up their promotion challenge when they entertain managerless Barnsley, the Sky Bet Championship's bottom club, at the Amex Stadium on Tuesday evening.
The Seagulls have won three and drawn one of their last four games to sit just three points below the Play-Off places, and with key players on the way back from injury they look set for second successive bid to reach the Premier League.
Defeat to Crystal Palace in last season's Play-Off semi-final was followed by the controversial departure of manager Gus Poyet, but under his successor Oscar Garcia the club are beginning to once more push for a place in the top flight.
The Spanish manager, a former Barcelona player, has got his team playing smoothly and not just offensively - in their current six-match unbeaten run they have registered three clean sheets and conceded only three goals.
Republic of Ireland left-back Stephen Ward, who is on a long-term loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, said: "It's been collective performances from the team as a whole, and that has really helped us at the back to keep clean sheets.
"We all work well in tandem, not just the players beside me but the players in front of us as well. When we lose the ball we want to get in our shape as quickly as possible - that's the work ethic the manager has instilled in us."
Garcia will be instilling his desire for victory against Barnsley, who dismissed manager David Flitcroft following Saturday's 3-0 defeat to Birmingham City - the seventh loss in a 12-match run that has brought the Tykes just one win.
History, as well as form, is on Brighton's side. They have won their last five home games against the Tykes, who to date this term have failed to win a single away match and have taken only one point from a possible 24 on their travels.
But Ward warned: "It will be a tough game for us. I've been at teams where the manager has gone and the next game is always one where you can sort of let loose and have a right go, because there's a bit less pressure.
"It's important to them that they react in the right way and that's something we really need to be aware of. But we expect to do well against anyone at home and it's a game we really want to win, because we are in a great run of form.
"It bodes well for this busy period and hopefully we can continue our form. We are not too far off those Play-Off positions, and with the hectic schedule between now and Christmas it's important to keep the run going as long as possible."
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