DANNY WILSON believes Barnsley proved by grinding out a goalless draw at derby rivals Leeds United that they have plenty to build on in their fight for Championship survival.
The Reds, despite being down to 10 men in the closing stages following the dismissal of Marcus Tudgay, were full value for a point at Elland Road.
It was not enough to move Wilson’s new charges off the foot of the table at the start of his second stint at the Oakwell helm. But the Barnsley chief was rightly full of praise for his side’s battling efforts.
He said: “I can’t do anything but praise the lads. We went to Elland Road and before a ball was kicked in anger, people were saying to us, ‘Leeds are going so well that you’ll have to be at your very best to get away with nil’.
“That is one of the things that was said to us. But that can inspire you, particularly when it is a derby atmosphere. I thought we rose to the challenge.
“We had one or two close shaves in the early exchanges, with Jack Butland pulling off an absolutely amazing world-class save early on.
“But then we had two or three great chances. I thought we passed the ball really well and got a real grip on the game.
“We breached their back-line many times and the unfortunate bit was we just couldn’t find that elusive pass when we needed it.
“That is something to work on. We handled all the pressure very well, especially when we were reduced to 10 men. The attitude was brilliant.”
Barnsley had only kept one previous clean sheet in the Championship before Saturday’s trip to Leeds and Wilson admits his adopting of a 4-1-4-1 formation was designed to try and improve that poor record.
He added: “There has to be an understanding that you can’t leave yourself too open in games. That is the difference between losing 1-0 and winning 1-0, you think, ‘Oh we can win this’. But then you give it all away by getting caught.
“I thought we got the balance right by remaining disciplined. We saw the entire strategy out for the full 90 minutes and that was pleasing.
“We know the areas Leeds are strong in. Ross McCormack has a lot of ability, as does Rodolph Austin. Then there is the aerial threat of Matt Smith.
“But we dealt with them all. On top of that, you need a threat yourself and I thought we had that against Leeds.”
Asked if the Oakwell faithful could expect to see a similar set-up in the Boxing Day fixture at home to Bolton, Wilson replied: “We will approach different games in a different way. There will have to be a different set-up in home games. This game plan worked against Leeds but at home that might not be the case.”
The one blemish on Barnsley’s day was Tudgay’s red card, which will now mean the loanee striker has to serve a three-game ban.
Wilson, who is hoping Chris O’Grady will be fit to face Bolton, added: “Unfortunately, Marcus went in with a tackle that wasn’t nasty but it was a striker’s tackle. It looked worse than it was but I don’t think the referee had any option.”
For Leeds, the point was enough to take them up to fifth place.
That is the highest standing of the season for Brian McDermott’s men and the United chief was in philosophical mood.
He said: “It is not frustrating. I have seen games like those go against teams. At 0-0, you can get done on the counter-attack and it didn’t go our way.
“The first half wasn’t good from our point of view but, having said that, we did have a really good chance to make it 1-0 through Matt Smith.
“They have also had a chance and could have gone in 1-0 up so give them credit. We take the point and move up to fifth.
“It’s one of those days and you get them in football. You especially get them in the Championship. What you have to do in a situation like this is get a result. We have got a result, we have moved up one place and we’ll all forget the game very quickly and we move on to Blackpool.”
Like Wilson, McDermott felt referee Keith Stroud had little option but to dismiss Tudgay for the 85th-minute challenge that left Marius Zaliukas writhing in agony. On Barnsley’s display, McDermott added: “They played well and Danny is a good manager.
“We had new manager syndrome again. I said to the players, ‘Play like you’ve got a new manager’. They didn’t. But that is life.
“As for Barnsley, do I think they will stay up? Well, if they play like that then they have got a major chance. There are so many points to play for. No-one can call who’s going to go up, no-one can call who’s going to go down. You can’t make your calls.”