Dale Tonge says the strength of the teams in Sky Bet League One is helping Barnsley keep their focus in the closing stages of the season.
The Reds have just seven games left to negotiate as they look to secure an immediate return to the second tier, with Coventry City up next at Oakwell on Saturday.
Barnsley perhaps haven’t been at their swashbuckling best in recent weeks, but a 19-game unbeaten run – coupled with Jacob Brown’s dramatic late winner at Walsall last weekend – has kept confidence ticking over for the final push.
“In an ideal world you’d have the good football and the goals, but at the same time those performances and a last-minute winner can be a catalyst for the last seven games to kick the boys on,” said Tonge. “We know we weren’t at our best, but we understand that three points, ultimately, is what counts.
“I think this is as strong as League One is going to be in terms of the teams that are below us – and the one above us. Luton have been outstanding all season and deservedly are where they are. You saw at the weekend against Doncaster, they had a convincing win and fully deserved that.
“With the teams below, we expect them to win every game – that’s our expectations. They’ll be expecting the same, so we know we’ve got to do our job whether at home or away.”
Portsmouth and Sunderland face one another in the Checkatrade Trophy final on Sunday, which gives the Reds an opportunity to further increase the gap to their promotion rivals.
However, Tonge is wary of the threat posed by Coventry, who are just four points outside the play-off places and inflicted Barnsley’s first defeat of the campaign back in September.
“The bigger the gap we can get before they play again the better, because that’s only going to add pressure – whether psychologically or the pressure of knowing they have to win again,” continued the Reds’ Assistant. “It can only be a benefit to us if we do our job.
“As you’ve seen at times, teams sit back when they come here and make it very difficult. But the style of play Mark [Robins] has got them playing is very pleasing on the eye – they play very good counter-attacking football, so they’re a good team and it’s going to be a really tough game on Saturday.
“It’ll be a very interesting game and a good one to watch for a neutral because both teams want to play football the right way and, hopefully, there’ll be a lot of goals on our part.”
There was excellent news for Barnsley Football Club earlier this week as Head Coach Daniel Stendel was named as Manager of the Season, and four players were included in the Team of the Season.
Captain Adam Davies and defender Ethan Pinnock, who have been crucial as the Reds have kept 20 clean sheets in League One, were joined by midfield duo Alex Mowatt and Cameron McGeehan in the best XI.
“I’m not sure how many times that happens – apart from a team that maybe runs away from the league – to get four players and the manager in as well, so it’s a great achievement for those boys, personally,” insisted Tonge. “But I think it’s the team and the squad as a whole, that’s helped the boys achieve what they’re going to get.
“I think how the Gaffer has set the team up has obviously been attractive; we’ve scored lot of goals and not conceded many. At the same time, it’s fast, free-flowing football and you can see the boys love playing that way and I think their peers giving them the votes is a massive deal.
“As players, knowing that your colleagues and opposition respect what you do is a big thing.”
You can watch Dale’s full press conference on iFollow Barnsley.