Dale Tonge insists Barnsley’s sole focus heading into the weekend is Accrington Stanley, in what could potentially be a season-defining week for the club.
The Reds host John Coleman’s side at Oakwell on Saturday before entertaining Sunderland on Tuesday night ahead of a trip to Doncaster Rovers on Friday evening.
But Tonge says all the preparation at the moment is on the visit of Accie as Barnsley look to take it one game at a time to secure promotion from Sky Bet League One.
“We’re not going to deny it; it’s a big week coming up,” admitted the Reds’ Assistant. “Not just in terms of the amount of games we’ve got but the opposition we’re playing, we totally understand that. But our main focus is Accrington this weekend, that’s all we’re focussing on.”
Barnsley head into this clash on the back of a resounding 3-0 victory over Southend United at Roots Hall.
The players showed incredible resilience to put in such a commanding performance after being reduced to ten men before the break, with goals from Cameron McGeehan, Cauley Woodrow and Jordan Green ensuring the Reds extended their unbeaten run to 15 games.
Accrington, meanwhile, have suffered a dip in form since the turn of the year and have picked up just seven points in 2019.
However, they have shown their capabilities this season with a hard-fought draw against Sunderland and Tonge is adamant that Barnsley will not be underestimating Accie this weekend.
“We watched that game and for 60 minutes they were outstanding – they played Sunderland off the park, to be totally honest,” he continued. “I think it was only because of a few unfortunate injuries why Sunderland got back into the game, not because of their good performance.
“They’re a tough team to prepare for – very off the cuff in terms of you can plan for one thing and they’ll do the total opposite. They played a different formation in the week – whether they do that at the weekend, we don’t know. But we’ll prepare for every eventuality.”
The Reds are so far unbeaten in the league at home this campaign, one of just four professional teams in England (alongside Liverpool, Luton Town and Sunderland) to hold such a record.
And while it’s not a stat that the team is focussing on, Tonge believes there is no reason why Barnsley can’t go the whole season unbeaten at Oakwell.
“I wouldn’t say it’s something we’re looking at, but at the same time why not?” said the 33-year-old. “The team and a group as a whole have got that steeliness about them – you see it in training and in games now where they’re taking a lot of pride in not conceding, not just the back four but the group.
“We’re a possession-based team and feel if we’ve got the ball then the opposition can’t score. Obviously, on the flip side of that, we like to think that we work as hard as any team in this league and, when we do lose the ball, one of the Gaffer’s main philosophies is the counter-press and is something that we look to trigger straight away.”
You can watch Dale’s full press conference on iFollow Barnsley.