Mentality, as opposed to fitness, is at the heart of Barnsley’s current streak of refusing to be beaten.
Twice in the last week they have scored goals in the 90th minute, first at Millwall last Saturday to secure a first away win of the season, and then at home to West Bromwich on Boxing Day, to dent the leaders’ inexorable march to the Premier League and salvage a point.
The belief is growing more and more. It’s not just fitness, football is so much about mentality, so just that belief that we can score is huge for us.Aapo Halme
Those dramatic interventions saw the Reds turn one point into four and have all helped Barnsley cut the gap to safety to just one point.
When Gerhard Struber took charge at Oakwell eight games ago, that gap was eight points.
The Austrian head coach put their knack of scoring late goals down to the attitude of his players.
Superior fitness is often the key ingredient when a team develops a penchant for striking late on.
But for Aapo Halme, the Finland Under-21s defender, the reason is obvious.
“It’s mentality,” says the former Leeds United man, who popped up in the last minute of normal time to convert Connor Chaplin’s cross-shot and deny West Brom.
“I think we have the feeling now that we can win games. The belief is growing more and more. It’s not just fitness, football is so much about mentality, so just that belief that we can score is huge for us.”
That mentality was never more evident than at the New Den last Saturday, when, after conceding an equaliser almost moments earlier, Barnsley responded to claim a huge first away win that gives them renewed belief ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Swansea.
“Millwall was an important game for us, it gave us the confidence to know we can win away games, so I think we can go down to Swansea and beat them,” continued Halme, who is hoping to force his way into the Finland team for the Euro 2020.
“The situation is looking better and better for us.
“But we have to keep going and believing in ourselves.”