CHRISTMAS is a time for merriment and joy, but it is strictly business as far as Barnsley are concerned.
Crunch time is approaching in the Reds’ quest to harden their automatic promotion designs again in League One after a disappointing four-match winless sequence – heightened by Daniel Stendel’s side dropping out of the play-off positions last weekend.
That occurred after a 1-1 draw with leaders Portsmouth and while Barnsley’s display possessed plenty of value, assistant head coach Andreas Winkler is mindful that the festive season will be all about points and not performance in acid tests against four direct rivals Blackpool, Peterborough United, Charlton Athletic and Luton Town.
Neither is Winkler shying away from the fact that pressure is now heaped upon the shoulders of the seventh-placed Reds, who were the early league pacesetters and did not drop out of the top three until September 22.
It is fair to say that Barnsley’s margin for error is diminishing in their quest to keep in touch with the top two of Portsmouth and Luton Town. Repeats of their recent poor loss at Wycombe are simply not an option if their top-two pitch is to be treated seriously in the new year.
Winkler acknowledged: “We have a bit of pressure now.
The table does not look great at the minute, but all it takes is putting four wins on the bounce and then you are right up there again as teams will drop points.Barnsley’s Brad Potts
“We want to play good, but all we need is points and it is all about results and starting a winning run.
“This is what the players know, but pressure makes you focused on your goal. I think we need 85 or 90 points to stay at the top.
“The season is so long and we just need a winning run to go towards the top. Although if [third-placed] Sunderland and Portsmouth continue to play as they are it will be very hard to catch them.
“It (the Wycombe game) puts our pressure a little bit higher. If we could have taken three points maybe it would be easier and we would have more self-confidence.
“We must make sure that it will never happen again. But we have a young squad and they will learn from match to match and improve from their experiences.”
Barnsley have been handed a timely boost ahead of their crunch run of festive fixtures with the news that key midfielder Kenny Dougall has returned to training this week after an ankle ligament problem that has kept him sidelined since October 23.
Tomorrow’s game at Blackpool comes too early for the Australian although Winkler is not ruling him out from potentially being involved at some point during the busy holiday season.
On whether Dougall could make his return over the holiday season, he said: “Yes, I think so.
“He trained for the first time in every session with the team (on Wednesday) and he looks in very good shape.
“We are looking from day to day and if we do not have any problem he can be part of the squad very soon.”
Meanwhile, Brad Potts has offered his take on the Reds’ recent dip in results and accepts that the club are underperforming.
Potts and his Reds team-mates assembled for their Christmas get-together earlier this week in London – although recent results are likely to have ensured that the players were not in full party mode.
The midfielder, who returns to former club Blackpool tomorrow, said: “At the minute we are underachieving. With the squad we have got we are more than capable of beating anyone and being in the top two.
“But we just have not been consistent enough and we have got to do better and put a run together to shoot up the league.
“The table does not look great at the minute, but all it takes is putting four wins on the bounce and then you are right up there again as teams will drop points.
“The lads have mentioned the next run of games and if we want to get promoted we have got to pick up wins.
“Playing against the teams who are up there does make a bit of a statement if you win.”
Striker Victor Adeboyejo has signed a new deal until 2021.