SAM WINNALL is confident that Barnsley’s impressive televised derby victory over Bradford City will prove a major turning point in the club’s campaign.
As starts to seasons go, the Reds’ impression upon the early League One table had been a negligible one until this month, with anxious fans looking down as opposed to up.
Given a wholly forgettable 2013-14 which culminated in relegation, a lame start represented the last thing the club needed, but perhaps the notion that things sometimes have to get worse before they get better has rung true in the case of Danny Wilson’s side.
Ahead of the trip to Rochdale on October 4, the Reds were in the bottom four after two wins from their opening nine matches, with the Barnsley faithful entitled to be worried that a losing culture was starting to set in.
To be fair to Wilson, vastly experienced after the best part of two decades in management, he stressed that it was a case of when, not if, the Reds would get their act together, with wins over Rochdale and the Bantams subsequently proving his point.
The table is suddenly making for better viewing at Oakwell, with Barnsley up to 13th spot and looking up rather than down – the Reds are now just three points behind sixth-placed Chesterfield.
Winnall’s own fortunes have been a microcosm of his club’s so far in 2014-15 with a slow start to the season now starting to be translated into something more substantive.
His key 65th-minute goal in the 3-1 win against Bradford may have only represented his third of the campaign, but it followed his stunning strike in midweek in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Oldham, with signs of the predatory panache which convinced Wilson to shelve out an initial £250,000 to sign him in the summer increasingly coming to the surface.
Winnall, who won the League Two Golden Boot after netting 23 times for Scunthorpe United in a goal-laden 2014-15, said: “You look at all successful teams and the majority have bad spells during a season. It is not very often you see a team have a perfect season; you do not see it.
“Sometimes, you have to weather those bad times by showing your character and pulling through. I do think Sunday can be a massive turning point for this club this season.
“I hope it is and the club deserves to be a lot higher than what it is. It deserves to be in the Championship, not in this division. We are going to do everything we can to get this team back there.
“Despite going 1-0 down against Bradford, we did not let it affect us mentally and knew if we carried on what we were doing, we were going to get chances and score goals. Confidence is high with myself and I think it is with the team.”
In the words of the late, great commentator David Coleman, goals pay the rent for any striker worth his salt and while Winnall took the plaudits for his sublime goal at Boundary Park in midweek, his Sunday strike pleased him just as much if not more.
It represented a real sniffer’s instinct, with Winnall’s movement and finish after latching onto Lewin Nyatanga’s inviting cross into the box showing just why so many clubs beat a path to Scunthorpe’s door in the summer to clamour for his services.
He added: “That area is where I like to think I earn my living and where I should be game-in, game-out. I had a couple like that at Rochdale and here, I was fully focused that when that chance came, I was going to take it.
“When you score those goals, you feel as if you are doing everything you can and doing your job properly. The ‘worldies’ can go in one in 10, but you make a living off the type of goals I scored on Sunday. I was really pleased.”
It is no secret that Wilson is in the hunt for an added physical presence to boost his forward line, with the Reds’ chief having also made considerable play in the past few weeks of his existing strikers grasping the nettle after a laboured start to the season.
Winnall might claim not to have given much thought to those words, but you would never have guessed by his showing on Sunday when his attacking threat regularly unhinged Bradford.
He may have left the stadium with the man-of-the-match accolade, but could have easily been taking home the match ball as well if it was not for some eye-catching goalkeeping from Jordan Pickford.
Winnall added: “I don’t think my attitude has changed by hearing what the gaffer said in the press. I approach football as being a blessing and every day I want to work as hard as I can and achieve everything I can.
“I have stuck at it. I had a bit of a tough start, but I am really enjoying my football and finding my confidence. Hopefully, we can have a lot more days like Sunday.”