Barnsley FC boss Neill Collins on fitness of Corey O'Keeffe and Jon Russell following Port Vale win

Barnsley boss Neill Collins has admitted two of his players “ideally wouldn’t have started” the 7-0 win over Port Vale.

New recruit Corey O’Keeffe and midfielder Jon Russell did not accumulate many minutes during pre-season but both were named in the starting XI for the club’s 2023/24 season opener.

Russell completed 75 minutes before being substituted but O’Keeffe was withdrawn much earlier, being forced off by injury on the 33-minute mark.

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Speaking regarding O’Keeffe after the full-time whistle at Oakwell, Collins said: “[It’s] too early to say [how serious the injury is]. We knew he was carrying something slight. It’s not great, [it’s a] big loss because he’s come in and done very, very well. Again, himself and Jon Russell, they’ve only played 45 minutes last week so again, [it’s] so good to enjoy that result but not get carried away.

O'Keeffe was forced off by injury. Image: Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesO'Keeffe was forced off by injury. Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images
O'Keeffe was forced off by injury. Image: Dan Mullan/Getty Images

"We had two guys playing that ideally wouldn’t have started today in Corey or Jon, for their own fitness. We’ve got young players on the bench. That result is fantastic and the performance even better. We’ve just got to be mindful that the team that will play Tuesday night [against Tranmere Rovers in the Carabao Cup] will be very young."

Although his replacement Barry Cotter proved effective down the right flank, O’Keeffe’s early exit felt cruel considering the role he played in Barnsley’s first goal. He intercepted a pass on the halfway line before advancing down the right flank at speed and delivering for Devante Cole, who rounded the attack off with a neat finish.

Although O’Keeffe and Russell were called upon, there were a number of absences from the Barnsley squad. Collins has conceded the club have “a lot to do” to get players back in action.

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He said: “We’ve got a lot to do to get guys back – Luca Connell and Adam Phillips back from suspension, Conor McCarthy, Robbie Cundy, Josh Benson. We’ve got a lot of good players and in a month’s time the team will hopefully really take shape.”