Barnsley U23s welcome South Yorkshire rivals Sheffield United to the Oakwell Training Ground on Tuesday afternoon.
The young Reds are currently fifth in the Professional Development League table, five places and nine points better off than the Blades having played a game less.
After a number of positive performances, there is an air of confidence amongst Martin Devaney’s squad and Tommy Willard says he and his teammates are relishing the upcoming encounter.
“It’s a big game and the boys have been working hard in training; we’re looking to get three points,” said the young forward. “With it being a derby, it adds a little bit more for the game and we’ll be up for it.”
Barnsley come into this game on the back of a 2-0 victory at Bolton Wanderers last week, where Willard notched his second goal of the campaign and his first since September.
It’s a strike that has the potential to provide a catalyst to kick-start the 19-year-old’s season, and he is hopeful that he can go on to find the target more frequently in the coming months.
“The win against Bolton has brought more confidence into the changing room and we’ve had a few more experienced heads in the team lately, which has helped the boys develop,” continued Willard.
“I’ve been looking to get more goals throughout the season – I got one early on – but I needed it for more confidence. Hopefully that will take me on a bit of a run now and I can score a few more.
“Martin gave me a lot of confidence going into the game; we had a chat in the week leading up to it, so I thank him for that. I was pleased with my performance and it’s something that I can build on now.”
This is a fixture that Willard has previous in, having come on as a half-time substitute last season to score an equaliser just after the hour mark.
That was one of nine appearances the former Southampton youngster made for our U23s during the 2018/19 term, while also bagging 12 goals in 24 games for the U18s.
“It was good to grab a goal and help the lads get a point – and it was a banger,” exclaimed Willard. “It’s the best I’ve scored for Barnsley.”
The young Reds are amongst the top goal scorers this season, with only leaders Nottingham Forest and second place Birmingham City having a healthier ‘for’ column in the table.
Victory on Tuesday would provide a solid platform for Devaney’s side to end the year on a high, and Willard is confident that they can collect maximum points from their remaining fixtures this decade.
“We’ve got two games left before Christmas and the main target is to win both – which I think we’re capable of doing,” insisted the forward. “In the New Year, we want to put as many wins as possible together to try and reach the play-offs at the end of the season.
“It’s definitely achievable. With the squad we’ve got, if we work hard enough, there’s enough talent in there, so I think it’s an achievable goal.”
You can watch our U23s for FREE at the Oakwell Training Ground, kick-off at 2pm.
Alternatively, you can follow updates on our official Academy Twitter account: @AcademyBFC.
Any supporters wishing to attend this game are politely reminded not to park on Grove Street, but to park in the CK Beckett South Stand car park.