Barnsley FC v Wycombe Wanderers: What Neill Collins had to say about criticism from Reds supporters

FOR various reasons, Barnsley will not remember the month of November with any particular fondness.

It started off with a crazy FA Cup draw against a side from the seventh tier of English football in Horsham and while that Oakwell result was a tad embarrassing, it can hardly compete with the opprobrium which has been heaped in the club’s direction after being kicked out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player in the first-round replay.Throw in a rough 5-1 EFL Trophy loss at Bradford City and being pegged back late on in Saturday’s draw at Lincoln City for good measure and it’s easy to see why the Reds - and their manager Neill Collins - will be collectively saying ‘roll on December.’

In his first senior appointment in England, Collins has not escaped censure either, with the Scot getting some stick from the sell-out travelling contingent during the weekend game at Sincil Bank.

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The 40-year-old has broad enough shoulders to handle it and has been in football long enough to know that criticism comes with the territory sometimes.

Equally, given what he has had to contend with - not just in November but since joining the club - he feels that a bit of perspective is also required.Collins, whose eighth-placed side are two points off the final play-off place ahead of Tuesday's home game with Wycombe, said: “I can see both sides. I understand fans who have followed the club for years and years and just want the club - their club - to give them success.“Especially when there have been lots of ups and downs in my short time here."Whether it be the sanctions that you have to deal with (Barnsley were charged with multiple breaches of regulations relating to the shareholdings of former chairmen Paul Conway and Chien Lee in July).

"As a fan, you are likely to see that and then you lose a player for big money and we all want to replace them, but you can’t replace them, like for like.

"A manager leaves and another comes in and there’s changes... You want everything to go seamlessly, but it doesn’t.

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"There have been a lot of positives that the players have picked up from last season. There’s (also) been things that we’d obviously like to rectify.

Barnsley manager Neill Collins looks on prior to the club's ill-fated FA Cup first-round replay at Horsham earlier this month. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.Barnsley manager Neill Collins looks on prior to the club's ill-fated FA Cup first-round replay at Horsham earlier this month. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.
Barnsley manager Neill Collins looks on prior to the club's ill-fated FA Cup first-round replay at Horsham earlier this month. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images.

"So it is hard to keep things in perspective at times. I think on Saturday, if we win that game - and we should have - then we are relatively happy with where we are at as we feel we are doing well.

"But when you don’t pick up the points, things almost look a lot darker. But I think we do have to try and keep perspective.

"I understand fans want to watch this team win and we want to give them a team that is winning and playing a certain way. We are working hard towards that."

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On the pitch this season, Barnsley have had their moments, especially away from Oakwell, but have also struggled against most of the so-called ‘better’ League One sides.

One stick to beat the Reds with has been the disparity between first-half and second-half statistics.

Barnsley are a modest tenth in the first-half ‘table’. By contrast, they are top of the second half table.

They are yet to come from behind to win a league game this term; they came agonisingly close on Saturday, while only Northampton (six) have conceded more goals in the opening 15 minutes of League One games in 2023-24, with most of the concessions being at Oakwell.

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On the difference between first and second-half stats, Collins continued: “I think it’s probably one of the biggest things we have discussed this season.

"What is ironic is that in the Blackpool game, we started well and gave away the penalty. At Derby, the game wasn’t going anywhere and we gave away a penalty.

"You watch the first four or five minutes and we had a couple of shots.

"It’s something we need to continue to consider. But the EFL is tough and League One is tight and all these games are and there’s not a lot in them.

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"You score to go ahead and the other team has to come out and you maybe get another one and all of a sudden, it’s 2-0 and everyone is saying it’s a fantastic performance.

"But when you lose that goal, teams shut up shop and it’s not easy to break them down.

"We just need to try and make sure we don’t put ourselves in that situation where we are behind. As I think if we do go ahead, we can show the better side from ourselves. It’s something we are considering."

Collins has revealed that loan keeper Liam Roberts is not ‘too far away’ from a return to the first-team picture.

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Roberts, who impressed all and sundry in the opening months of his season-long loan move from Middlesbrough, underwent surgery to repair an injured finger in October.

"I don’t think he’s too far away. I think it’s day by day now," Collins observed.