HEAD COACH Jose Morais concedes it is a case of “now or never” in Barnsley’s quest to stay in the Championship.
The Reds have just three games to avoid the drop back into the third tier, the first of which comes tonight at Nottingham Forest. It is also the club’s game in hand on the other four clubs attempting to avoid relegation, Sunderland already being down.
Victory would allow Barnsley to leapfrog Bolton Wanderers into 21st place and ensure the Oakwell outfit’s fate is in their own hands heading into the penultimate weekend.
Lose or even draw, however, and Bolton will hold the upper hand, which leaves Morais in no doubt as to the importance of the trip to the City Ground.
“It is definitely a ‘must-win’,” said the Portuguese, who succeeded Paul Heckingbottom when he left for Leeds United in February.
“It is now or never, like the song. The players must show their capabilities against Forest.”
Saturday’s defeat to Leeds means Barnsley sit two points adrift of Bolton in the table.
With play-off chasing Brentford due at Oakwell on Saturday before the South Yorkshire club round off the season at Derby County on May 6, tonight’s fixture is the one that stands out as the most winnable.
It should have taken place on Easter Monday only for heavy overnight rain to leave the pitch unplayable. Aitor Karanka’s men have since lost three of four outings, their sole victory coming at home to Ipswich Town.
Barnsley are in marginally better form, their last four games having yielded four points. But there can be no doubting just how precarious the club’s position is right now.
Not only are second-bottom Burton Albion showing signs of life, their 2-1 triumph at Sunderland last Saturday bringing the club’s first back-to-back wins since Christmas.
But Nigel Clough’s Brewers also have a kinder run-in, on paper, with Saturday’s crunch clash against Bolton at the Pirrelli Stadium being followed by a trip to Preston North End on the final day.
Bolton, meanwhile, end their own campaign at home to Karanka’s Forest.
“I have the belief in myself and my ideas,” said Morais when asked about his side’s chances of escaping the bottom three.
“Everything I do, I do to succeed. That has been my life. I am giving it my very best.
“It is between us and the teams that are close to us, Bolton being the closest one.
“My belief is we have to win our next game. That is the game we have that is less than the others.
“Win that and we are in a good position because we are in control in terms of making the same results as the other teams.
“The time we have to recover (from the weekend fixture) is not too big or too long. Recovery-wise we are prepared for this game.
“We have to go for the win. It is a must-win game. I am not thinking about not winning. I just want to win.”
Lloyd Isgrove misses the trip down the M1 with a hamstring injury, but Adam Jackson returns after being absent for the derby defeat at Elland Road.
Daniel Pinillos, whose last appearance came on Easter Saturday, is also fit.
“Aitor Karanka is a friend and colleague,” said Morais – whose side have taken ten points from his dozen games in charge – about the former Middlesbrough chief. “I have much respect for him and his capacities. It will be good to play against him again.
“Forest are playing with tranquillity. They are stable in the division and can play free. We have to take the game to them.”
Last six games: Nottingham Forest DLLLWL Barnsley LDWLDL.
Referee: R Jones (Merseyside).
Last time: Nottingham Forest 0 Barnsley 1; January 2, 2017; Championship.