At the time it seemed like saving Mario Vrancic’s penalty, harshly awarded against him, right at the end of the first half was behind an inspired second 45 minutes which saw Collins deny Stoke City’s Sam Surridge twice, Jacob Brown and Vrancic, all at close quarters, and secure a 1-1 draw and a point coach Markus Schopp described as “the next step” for his developing team.
But only towards the end of his media interviews did the 24-year-old reveal what was really behind his magnificent display.
“I’d like to think someone was looking down on me because five years ago today my dad died and it was just fantastic to put in a performance like this for everyone at home, my family, everyone watching the game,” he said, suddenly becoming quite emotional.
“All the messages I’m getting through now from my family are incredible and they give me something to smile about on a bad day. I’m delighted, I really am.
“It inspired me. My dad was a big part of my football journey growing up so I’m just more pleased than anything to put in a performance for my family.
“I’m sure today with some of my saves and some of the luck I had he was definitely looking down on me.”
Like the parents of so many youth footballers, Mark Collins contributed so much to his son’s development, regularly ferrying him from their Southampton home to training sessions and matches with Chelsea.
Collins’s family had not been at Stoke’s imposing ground, where they had a 100 per cent record this season until he spoilt it on Wednesday, but that was his doing.
“They’re all back home,” he explained. “I told them to stay at home because I wanted them to be together and just try to enjoy the day. Luckily I put a performance on like that and put a smile on their faces.”
If his late father was the inspiration, Barnsley goalkeeping coach Kevin Pilkington was the brains behind him tipping Vrancic’s penalty onto the crossbar after standing his ground. The kick was awarded when Collins rushed out at Surridge but the striker appeared to trip himself. Collins was booked for it, Michal Helik for delaying Vrancic.
“I spoke to the ref (Geoff Eltringham) and he said he didn’t see me touch him but he didn’t see me touch the ball – sometimes they’re given, sometimes they’re not,” said Collins.
“Kev Pilkington told me before the game if they get a penalty, go down the middle, so Kev made me save that penalty, really.”
The importance of Barnsley’s seventh point in as many games, taken from a feisty game which saw Tommy Smith sent off for the hosts along with Stoke coaches Dean Holden and Rory Delap and Barnsley’s Joe Laumann, was amplified by Saturday’s 3-0 defeat at Bournemouth.
The Reds conceding the opening goal on Wednesday, Surridge converting a Smith cross, but responded with a wonderful Cauley Woodrow free-kick. To have headed back to the dressing room seconds after the penalty behind again would have been a real blow.
“It’s a tough place to come, they’re a very strong side in defence and attack but we don’t fear anyone in this league any more,” insisted Collins. “We have a point to prove to get back to where we were last season when we finished fifth. We want to be pushing to do that again.
“When you go away to Bournemouth and get absolutely battered like we did – it was lucky to be (only) three – to come here and put up a fight like this and build a result is what we wanted to do.
“We knew it was a tough place to come, they’re a good team and we just want to build now for Saturday against Blackburn.”
Collins’s coach Schopp was not downplaying the importance of the result either.
“We know how it works in this business and it’s all about getting points in a certain way with a certain spirit, with enthusiasm and energy and it was a really, really good performance in this way,” said the Austrian, who took over in the summer.
“It’s the next step.
“To get a point after a difficult game is an important one.
“It’s all about the effort the lads put in on the pitch. I know there’s a lot of stuff we can do better but at the end it’s the mental side and if we start building from something like this it can be a really, really important point.
“We had really good moments, even in the last games, but one mistake makes a difference.
“We had the fight on the pitch we needed to get a point.
“In the Bournemouth match I wasn’t that critical with the first half.
“We struggled in the second half but we have to accept certain things take a while to understand for some guys so it’s important to work each day with them and get them on a certain level.”