Two of Sky Bet League One’s five unbeaten sides are set to go head-to-head as Barnsley host Walsall at Oakwell on Saturday.
The Reds, fresh from their Checkatrade Trophy comeback against Oldham in midweek, will be looking to build on last weekend’s 2-1 victory over Gillingham when the Saddlers visit South Yorkshire.
Assistant Head Coach Andreas Winkler is thrilled with the start his side has made to the new campaign, but believes Barnsley can get even better as the season goes on.
“I’m delighted with the start and the unbeaten record because, before the season started, everyone was talking about the high-pressing and counter-attacking, and now we can show that this style of football is also good for our defence,” said Winkler.
“If you look at how much Adam Davies has had to do, it’s not too much. So it’s a good sign that everyone is working hard for the defence; it starts with the strikers.
“Winning is a great motivator; I like to win – everyone likes to win. Draws can also be good, but the best part is that we haven’t lost. We can do even better. If we do it over 90 minutes we’ll be delighted.
“We can improve the periods of ball possession to be more composed. Everyone has to know, whether it’s 2-0 or 2-1, that we can decide the pace of the match, but this is a learning process and I’m happy with how we do it. There’s a good attitude, a winning attitude now.”
Daniel Stendel utilised his squad perfectly on Tuesday evening, with ten alterations to the starting line-up as the Reds won their first Group F encounter.
One player in particular who impressed was Jack Walton, with the young goalkeeper pulling off a number of fine saves to keep the hosts at bay – including a stunning last-gasp block to deny Jonathan Benteke.
“It’s good for him and his self-confidence that everyone trusts him,” insisted Winkler. “A new gaffer has come in and he has a new contract, so he knows that the gaffer thinks highly of him. He’s confident in training to play well on Saturday.
“We’re confident with him; there are no question marks. Matches are very important for young goalkeepers, everyone knows it’s the toughest job on the pitch but we don’t think about that. He played the last four or five matches of last season, so that’s good for us.”
With four wins and two draws each, there is nothing to separate the two sides heading into Saturday’s clash.
The Saddlers were held 0-0 at home to Blackpool in their last League One outing and, like Barnsley, can climb to the summit with three points this weekend.
“It will be a tough match; they’re unbeaten, like us,” continued the Reds’ Assistant. “We know that they defend very hard, very strong, in a good shape and compact.
“They’ve got two or three very good strikers with a lot of pace, so we have to be very wary of their counter-attack. We may have to be patient and find something special in our tactics to penetrate their defence.
“If you’re unbeaten, you have great self-confidence and they will look forward to playing here at Oakwell and to show how well they can perform, so it will be a tough match.”