Barnsley are aiming to take a massive stride towards automatic promotion with victory over Sunderland on Tuesday evening, says Dale Tonge.
The Reds took advantage of the Black Cats’ draw at Wycombe Wanderers at the weekend with a 2-0 win against Accrington Stanley, a result that opened up a four-point gap to Jack Ross’ side.
“We look at it as a must win for us – that’s all we’re looking at,” insisted Tonge. “Let’s win the game and the rest will take care of itself.
“We can increase the gap and, equally, they can close the gap, so we know it’s a big game. But I don’t think this game is the be all and end all between now and the end of the season.
“We’re under no illusions; it’s a massive game. We’re going to look forward to it, as I’m sure Sunderland are, because of our positioning, and we’re going to hit it head on like we do every other game.”
Unbeaten in the last 16 Sky Bet League One outings, Barnsley will be looking to exact revenge for the 4-2 defeat suffered at the Stadium of Light back in November.
Sunderland were 3-0 up inside the opening 30 minutes before the Reds hit back through two Kieffer Moore goals either side of the interval. But Luke O’Nien’s strike five minutes from time secured a priceless win for the Black Cats and, despite a setback against Wycombe the following weekend, Stendel’s side haven’t looked back since.
“As a group, that first half hour was a little bit chaotic,” admitted Tonge. “But, after that point, we could have had a lot of goals in that time.
“It’s something that we’ve draw upon on a few occasions to say if we don’t do it right, what can happen against any team – not just Sunderland. So, at the same time, we need to be on the ball from minute one and hopefully get our rewards at the end of it.”
Barnsley are unbeaten at home this campaign and can make it a full calendar year without a loss at Oakwell if they avoid defeat against Sunderland.
While Tonge maintains it’s a record that the squad isn’t particularly focussing on as they aim to secure promotion, he believes it could give the Reds a mental edge against visiting teams.
“It’s something that we’re proud of but not something that we’re actually paying massive attention to,” continued the Reds’ Assistant. “We’re aware that it’s important because, from a psychological point of view, if there’s teams that come here and think we’re really hard to beat we might have one up already.
“It’s got a really good feel about it. We took Saturday on its own credit and enjoyed the game. Now we’re ready for this one, we’ll build for it and work on certain things we want to work on.”
You can watch Dale’s full press conference on iFollow Barnsley.