Barnsley v Colchester United - Josh Scowen ready for taste of real thing as Wembley return looms

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YOU could say that Josh Scowen has unfinished business when it comes to the play-offs.

Last season, he was part of a Barnsley side who tantalisingly hinted at participation after transforming from relegation candidates to play-off contenders after six successive League One victories saw them jump from 19th to sixth in early Spring 2015.

BACK IN THE FRAY: Josh Scowen ,right, battling with Sheffield Uniteds Billy Sharp in the recent encounter at Bramall Lane. Picture: Sport Images

BACK IN THE FRAY: Josh Scowen ,right, battling with Sheffield Uniteds Billy Sharp in the recent encounter at Bramall Lane. Picture: Sport Images

Unfortunately, reality bit as the Reds won just once in their final 10 games to finish 11th. The brief flirtation with the top-six was good while it lasted.

Tenacious midfielder Scowen sampled end-of-season lottery experience at the end of 2014-15, tagging along with team-mates from Wycombe Wanderers – the club he left to join Barnsley in mid-season in January 2015 – after they reached the League Two play-off showpiece at Wembley last May.

But the thrill was a vicarious one and, in any case, the Chairboys lost on penalties to Southend United.

Just under a year on and Scowen, after knocking on the door last term, is finally close to being afforded the real thing, playing his part in the Reds’ concerted top-six crusade.

Rubber-stamping a play-off spot and filing the latest chapter of a remarkable story will move a step closer if visiting Colchester leave Oakwell empty-handed.

If Barnsley triumph and other results go their way, the play-off invite could be in the post by just after 5pm.

Scowen’s immediate sights are concerned with not getting side-tracked and concentrating solely on negotiating a way past Colchester.

He would be lying if he said had not thought about Wembley – and a play-off encore after their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy triumph there just under a month ago.

Scowen said: “Last season, Wycombe finished in the play-offs, but I signed for Barnsley in January and obviously I didn’t have a chance to play for them when they went to Wembley.

“It would be great to make up for that this year. After we had the taste of the JPT final, we want more of that and it has kind of spurred us on for the rest of the season.

“We all just know it is there for us. As a footballer, you always want to win things and do the best you can. Nothing was actually said (about a Wembley return after the JPT final), but everyone just knew it and it is driving us on.

“Hopefully now, with two games left, we can finish the season strongly and have another chance of getting to Wembley.”

Tumultuous is perhaps the best word to describe Scowen’s 15-and-a-half months at Oakwell.

The Enfield-born player is serving under his fourth head coach/manager in Paul Heckingbottom after previously working under Lee Johnson, Mark Burton and Danny Wilson.

Given his considerable experiences, Scowen can vouch for both the rough and the smooth.

While booking a place in the play-offs brings its own pressures, the 23-year-old says it is less stressful and more enjoyable than fighting fires at the other end of the table, which Barnsley were in the autumn when they lost eight league games in a row for the first time since 1958-59.

Scowen said: “My time here has been a roller-coaster.

“When I first signed, we were near the bottom and then had a late push. It was the same as this year when we were bottom, but we are having a great push now.

“Now we have two big games left to finish the season on a high.

“There is a bit of pressure on us. But I think the boys are big enough and strong enough to handle it. We have come from the bottom of the league and that’s pressure.

“Now there is a good type of pressure to get in the play-offs and, hopefully, have another chance of getting to Wembley.”

Today is Barnsley’s final home league game of the campaign, but Scowen and company are clearly banking on an Oakwell encore in the play-offs.

Colchester arrive in South Yorkshire with little to play for, given that their relegation has been confirmed, but party-pooping the carnival atmosphere is their spur.

Given the way in which the Reds struggled to get over the line in their previous home game against Peterborough, before a dramatic late intervention from an unlikely source in full-back George Williams, it is wise to not be too presumptious.

Scowen said: “If the results go our way, we will be in there. But we can’t look at it like that.

“We have got a job to do on Saturday to get three points and, after that, we will look where we are.

“It’s nice that it’s in our hands and if we win both games, we are guaranteed to be in there. But we have two tough games, especially Wigan, who are top of the league.

“Colchester really have nothing to play for, but that could work against us.

“But the boys have been playing well and we go into both games thinking we can win.”

In some respects, Scowen has been an unwitting victim of Barnsley’s renaissance with the performances in the middle of the park by Conor Hourihane and Josh Brownhill effectively denying him a place in his favoured position when he returned following a spell in the treatment room.

Due to injuries elsewhere, opportunity has knocked elsewhere at right-back, a not unfamiliar position for Scowen, who previously played there occasionally at Wycombe.

He added: “It has been frustrating. But there’s been nothing I can do, to be honest. Browny and Conor have been excellent and I cannot moan at the manager or anything. I cannot say nothing bad against them.

“It is just nice to be playing again, to be honest. No matter where it is. We have just kept three clean sheets and it’s something to build on and if we can keep another one, then the likes of Sam Winnall and Adam Hammill can score the goals for us.”