Nobody outside of Barnsley will give bottom-of-the-table Tykes a chance of beating high-flying Derby County tomorrow.
And that’s music to the ears of boss Danny Wilson who hopes the side he inherited just games ago can relish the role of underdog in their battle to stay in the Championship.
Thursday’s 1-0 Boxing Day defeat to Bolton Wanderers came hot on the heels of a battling point away to Leeds United and leaves Barnsley rooted to the foot of the Championship with just 16 points from 22 games.
Last season, the Reds needed 55 points to stave off relegation on the final day of the campaign, which would equate to another 13 wins from their remaining 24 games.
For a side who have won just three times all season in the league, Wilson has a challenge on his hands, even if that 55-point tally from last season was freakishly high.
Derby County, the in-form team of the Championship with seven wins and a draw from their last eight outings, are hot favourites tomorrow at Oakwell.
When asked if it concerned the manager that everyone outside of Oakwell seemed to be writing Barnsley off even before the halfway mark of the campaign, Wilson said: “I hope it stays like that.
“There’s no pressure on us, I don’t think anyone gives us a cat in hell’s chance.
“Let’s use that as a positive from our perspective, if we can turn that to forge some sort of confidence in us, to go out and play with any fear, that’s great I don’t mind that.
“There’s always going to be someone in the league that has a bit of a nosedive, it always happens. There mighty be two or three teams who just can’t get a result. We have to make sure we pick up a few points to catch them up.”
One of those sides looks to be Doncaster Rovers at the moment, after Paul Dickov’s side conceded 12 goals in their last four games to sit just two points off third-from-bottom Sheffield Wednesday.
Asked if the daunting challenge of the Rams was the perfect pick-me-up following a disappointing Boxing Day defeat to Wanderers - courtesy of Neil Danns’s 64th-minute striker – Wilson smiled as he replied: “If you win, yes.”
Before reverting back to managerial mode, in adding: “Listen, all the games are tough.
“Derby, a team full of confidence like I expect they will be, will be a tough challenge for us.
“But if we can apply ourselves as we did against Bolton, create the chances, I will be happy.
“We just have to start taking one or two, we are not taking our percentage of chances.”
Barnsley were guilty of spurning several first-half chances against Bolton, as Wilson seeks his first goal as manager.
Chris O’Grady, Jim O’Brien and Peter Ramage all went close, while the returning goalkeeper Luke Steele – who played his first game in three months following Jack Butland’s return to Stoke City – did his bit by keeping Bolton at bay.
“It was a big disappointment not to be leading at half-time,” said Wilson.
“I know Steele pulled off a great save for us, but the three or four good chances we had we can’t seem to get our noses in front at the moment.
“I think if we can do that, you would see a different team. But if you don’t score you always playing on the edge.
“We got undone by a bit of quality from their perspective. When you see the quality in their side, to keep them at bay for long periods is a job in itself.
“But they did open us up for a period of 10 to 15 minutes in the second half, which we found difficult to keep with. We managed to steady ourselves and get good shape again, and negated a little bit of their attacking play but just couldn’t force it at the other end. That’s a problem they have had all season.”
Wilson wants to see his troops use the ball better when Derby apply the expected pressure tomorrow.
At Elland Road a week ago, Barnsley came under the cosh from Leeds, but when they won the ball back they passed it out intelligently and kept possession. But against Bolton, too many time the Reds hammered the ball upfield only for the visitors to return it with interest.
A sustained period of pressure at the start of the second half finally saw Danns strike the killer blow for the Lancashire club.
“We got undone when we were chasing the game a bit, or chasing Bolton,” said Wilson. “We just couldn’t get re-organised. We cleared our lines, didn’t go anywhere, it came back at us and we were out of position.
“That’s what cost us (on Boxing Day). Yet we went to Leeds last Saturday and didn’t have that problem.
“We linked the ball out well, particular under pressure, and it helped us a great deal.
“Against Bolton, the problem with that period of time when they scored, we were lashing the ball out with any thought and it just kept coming back at us.
“At Leeds, we got hold of the ball when we did intercept ball or win our tackles, we passed it out better. That took the pressure off but we didn’t do that (at Oakwell).”
Former England manager Steve McClaren has worked wonders at Derby since replacing Nigel Clough earlier this season and Wilson admits he is a big fan.
“They are flying and having a great run,” observed Wilson. “Steve McClaren is very highly respected in the game, not least by me. I know him very well, and it’s no surprise he has got Derby playing like they have. He has taken over and put his own stamp on things.
“They have got that momentum that every manager wants. But they always say your next game is one closer to your next defeat so let’s hope it’s us.
“I don’t feel daunted by anybody coming to Oakwell, I have seen enough in this division to know that teams are very close to each other, irrespective of the points.
“Derby coming here doesn’t worry me whatsoever. They are near the top of the table, the form team, but if anything it might inspire us a bit more.
“He’s got some cracking players there, but likewise we have match-winners here as well. Come the Derby game I am sure it will be great entertainment.”