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PREVIEW: Crystal Palace vs Barnsley


THREE defeats on the bounce has come at the worst possible time of the season for Palace.

Furthermore, they have failed the find the back of the net and the recent form has been the poorest since the start of the season.

However, who would have thought the Eagles would be in fourth position and just six points off an automatic position with six games to go?

It's all too easy to get comfortable with watching delightful football, and we have certainly had a large chunk of that this season.

Remember the 4-1 defeats at Bristol City and Preston North End back in August? A season of doom and gloom looked set for the boys in red and blue, but the turnaround has been quite unbelievable.

Yes, the Brighton defeat hurt. Yes, Birmingham shocked us all in SE25 on Good Friday. And yes, the 500-mile round trip to Blackpool was hugely disappointing to concede in the final six minutes.

Saturday's game against Barnsley is a great opportunity to put things right.

In fact, it's a must-win game in some respects if the Eagles are to make another charge at automatic promotion.

Watford actually did Palace a favour by beating Hull City on Tuesday night, even if some may have seen a draw as a good result.

A victory for Steve Bruce's men would have surely meant Ian Holloway's side were destined for a play-off position, but the Hornets' win has pegged them back and it allows Palace another chance.

Of course, Barnsley are scrapping for their lives at the bottom of the table and have been in good form recently, so it will be far from a walkover at Selhurst – I think we all know by now that anyone can beat anyone in this league.

Holloway said after the Blackpool defeat that he's expecting a response from his players, while Peter Ramage admitted the latest run of form has brought the players close together in a bid to get out of this blip.

Having looked at the Championship table from the previous two seasons, it has taken 75 points to secure a play-off place, and that's in sixth position. In 2010, it was 70 points and the year before that, 74.

So, Palace will need at least three wins from the final six games, and anything more is a bonus.

The first of those must come against the Tykes tomorrow, and with no game next weekend due to original opponents Millwall playing in the FA Cup semi-final, it would be good to take three points into the next game at Ipswich Town on April 16.

In terms of team news, it seems that we may have to wait a little bit longer than expected for Aruna Dindane's debut after Holloway revealed on Monday that the club have been unable to get international clearance from Qatar for the Ivorian.

The boss has made changes over the past two games involving Danny Gabbidon and Peter Ramage, while Jonny Williams should come back into the starting XI.

Kevin Phillips could come back in for Stephen Dobbie, who was ineffective at Bloomfield Road, while a few people have been questioning Kagisho Dikgacoi's performances in recent weeks but it's unlikely that Alex Marrow or Stuart O'Keefe will be promoted for a starting position.

One man who is ready for a return to the starting XI after injury is Joel Ward, and the full-back has been on the bench for the past two games.

The 23-year-old is arguably a lot more solid than Jazz Richards, while Richards' attacking threat seems to have waned since his loan arrival from Swansea City.

Tomorrow's game presents a great chance to get back to winning ways and the players require all the support they can get heading into the final push.

PREVIEW: Crystal Palace vs Barnsley

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