Winnall’s insatiable thirst for goals key for Reds

Sam Winnall celebrates at Wembley.
Sam Winnall celebrates at Wembley.
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SAM WINNALL is feeling greedy.

Greedy for goals and greedy for promotion, and even the prospect of inflicting damage on the club that gave the striker his first taste of Football League can not stifle those hunger pangs.

The 24-year-old took his tally for the season to 20 with Tuesday night’s double against Oldham Athletic.

Nineteen of those have come in the league to underline just what a huge role Winnall has played in Barnsley’s push for the play-offs, something that was given a major boost by not only the 2-1 win over the Latics but Gillingham stumbling again at home to Walsall.

The upshot of that midweek action is the Reds sit just three points adrift of the faltering Kent club in sixth place.

Next up for Paul Heckingbottom’s men is a trip to another promotion-chaser suffering a slump in form at just the wrong time. Second-placed Burton Albion still enjoy a five-point cushion over the chasing pack but two draws and two defeats from the club’s last four outings suggests the promotion jitters have hit the Pirelli Stadium.

Winnall spent four months with the Brewers in 2010-11, making not only his League debut as a teenager but also bagging his first goals in senior football. Despite that, the Reds striker insists there will be no room for sympathy come 3pm on Saturday.

“Burton have done really well,” said the Wolverhampton-born forward, fresh from his two strikes against Oldham.

“I would imagine they will be the first to admit they have over-achieved this season. They have a style of play that works for them and have stuck to it all year.

“But we go there full of confidence after beating Oldham and looking to hopefully claw a few points back on the play-offs.

“I was at Burton on loan when I was younger, for about three or four months. I really enjoyed my time there because it was my first taste of the Football League.

“It was tough and I learned a lot about what it takes to be a footballer. There are still a couple of faces from the backroom staff there but a lot has changed.

“They are doing really well, which is good for them. But there is nothing on my mind but taking those three points.

“Tuesday was a huge three points. It was the third time after a loss this season where we went on and got the win. We did it after Southend and Gillingham, and now again after Chesterfield (who won 2-1 at Oakwell last Saturday).

“For a dressing room, that shows character. We couldn’t be happier because the win has put us back in with a shout.”

Oldham was a must-win encounter, hence the scenes of jubilation that met Winnall restoring Barnsley’s lead with a well-struck penalty seven minutes from time.

Those fans among the 8,871 crowd celebrating were well aware just how tough a run-in the Reds are facing, especially on the road where after Burton they must travel to Sheffield United and then leaders Wigan Athletic on the final day.

It is a tough schedule and one where the South Yorkshire club will be looking to their scoring talisman for further inspiration.

“One of Sam’s big qualities is his belief,” said caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom when asked about his top scorer.

“He has 20 goals for the season now. Fair play to him. No doubt his aim will be to finish as the top scorer (in League One). We will be helping him do that. We know when he gets on a run that it helps us.

“Sam was on a terrific run before his injuries, which coincided with our real good run of form. Hopefully, now we can get him on another good run as it might get us where we want to be.”

Winnall’s league tally of 19 is three behind Swindon’s Nicky Ajose, the leader in the race for the golden boot in League One. Will Grigg, of Wigan, sits second with 20, while Adam Armstrong, Coventry City’s loanee from Newcastle United, has 19 to his name.

“Twenty is not a bad haul but I am greedy and want more. I have to keep striving for more goals.

“I could have had a couple more against Oldham but that is the life of a striker. You score some goals and you miss some. Thankfully, we just needed the two and I got them,” said Winnall.

“I got 23 at Scunthorpe (in 2013-14). Potentially, I could beat that. We have five massive league games left and, hopefully, some more after that in the play-offs.

“I don’t set targets. I just want to score as many goals as possible. I never get happy with my return. I have got to 20 but am disappointed not to have more.

“That is just how I am and my attitude towards scoring goals. Tuesday was a good night, in the end. We got there eventually and that is all that matters.

“The emphasis at half-time was on keeping a clean sheet and getting that second goal. Unfortunately, we did concede a goal but, thankfully, a great set-piece from Conor and Adam led to a penalty and I put it in the net.”

James Bree came off with a hamstring strain as a precaution and is being closely monitored ahead of Saturday’s trip.