Johnson eyes early festive gift at Oakwell

Barnsley head coach Lee Johnson.
Barnsley head coach Lee Johnson.
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Barnsley boss Lee Johnson is looking for an early Christmas present - get out of the League One relegation places.

The Tykes are in Johnstone’s Paint Trophy action on Saturday against Wigan Athletic, but return to league duties next weekend at Colchester United.

We are just getting there, our last four or five performances have shown us people are fighting for the shirt.

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson.

Only three points separate the bottom seven teams in League One - including Colchester - so Johnson knows the importance of that game.

After picking up four points from their last three league games, Johnson is taking the positives out of those performances.

A last-gasp equaliser from Conor Hourihane brought a 1-1 draw against Sheffield United last Saturday lunchtime, but that joy was short-lived, as other results later in the day saw Barnsley slide to bottom spot.

“After getting a deserved point, to then go bottom three hours later was disappointing, for me personally,” he said.

“But then, on reflection, it’s not about being bottom now, it’s about getting out of the bottom four. It was important to group a few clubs together, and that’s what happened.

“If we can beat Colchester next week, I think we can be out of the bottom four, so it could have been a big point (last week).

“You look at the table, of course you do, it’s my job to. I know exactly where we are, what we need to do, how many wins we need.

“But things change all the time, get three or four wins and we could be looking the other way (upwards) again.

“We have to remain positive, performances have turned, we have quality players in and quality players back, moving into January.”

The return to fitness of players like Conor Hourihane and Ryan Williams has helped Barnsley’s cause, and Johnson believes results will now start to improve.

He said: “Continuity of selection comes from continuity of performance. If the performances are good from individuals, they win their individual battles with the opposition, then they stay in and keep the shirt.

“It’s important for the players to know that, that there’s competition, that if they have a bad game then someone is coming in behind them. It’s not a fear factor, it pushes them on, because they know they are not guaranteed their place.

“We are just getting there, our last four or five performances have shown us people are fighting for the shirt.”