Barnsley FC v Bristol Rovers: Time for Reds to emerge as contenders as opposed to wannabes

JANUARY is a time when league tables have taken shape and the promotion contenders separate themselves from the wannabes.

Which brings us to Barnsley, whose response after last season’s heartbreaking promotion near-miss at Wembley has been quietly impressive in many respects, but with the key spell in their season to come.

December saw the Reds string together some consistency in terms of results, earning Neill Collins a manager of the month nomination.One thing that will need to improve is home form. A total of 18 points have been claimed, as poised to 25 on their travels.

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With two successive Oakwell appointments coming up, they can start eating into that.

Barnsley boss Neill Collins. Picture: Ben Roberts/Getty ImagesBarnsley boss Neill Collins. Picture: Ben Roberts/Getty Images
Barnsley boss Neill Collins. Picture: Ben Roberts/Getty Images

Collins, whose side are unbeaten in eight league games, said: "The team is striving for that (consistency) and we need more of that to our game and we can do better in situations.

"But I feel we are growing as a team and I feel like we have evolved and learnt from every situation we’ve had and the work on the training ground has been really important and we’ve continued to develop those relationships as a team and the partnerships.”

The Reds face a familiar face today in ex-winger Luke Thomas and a manager who lived in the area up until relatively recently in Matt Taylor, who resided in Penistone during his time in charge at Rotherham United.

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The ex-Millers chief has certainly been getting a tune out of rejuvenated Rovers of late - like Collins, he was nominated for the December manager of the month gong.

Not bad, considerably it was his first month at the helm.

Collins continued: "There’s been a distinct change since the new manager came in and they have a good squad and are going to be there or thereabouts come the end of the season.

"They have beaten Portsmouth and Bolton recently and are a more than capable team.

"The manager has changed the shape and seems to be getting players like Luke Thomas in the right areas to be a threat. We obviously know all about some of the good attacking players and Chris Martin is scoring goals and a top, top striker at this level.

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"Like anything, it’s putting round pegs in round holes. He’s a good manager and had great experience and he’ll benefit from that.

"It will be a really challenging game for us here. But having had a little bit of rest, our players should be really looking forward to putting together a 90-minute performance."