Barnsley v Brighton: Wilson is ready to take fight down to the wire

Lewis Nyatanga.
Lewis Nyatanga.
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Danny Wilson is refusing to set a points target which he believes will secureChampionship safety for Barnsley, but is already preparing for a final-day showdown against QPR.

The Reds have eight games remaining – starting with today’s Oakwell visit of Brighton & Hove Albion – in which to climb out of the bottom three.

Barnsley trail Charlton Athletic by three points, having played a game more, and Birmingham City by five points.

Back-to-back wins at Reading and Yeovil Town have kept the Reds in touch with the teams above them, but their manager is ready for more final-day dramatics.

Last season, under David Flitcroft, Barnsley only grasped Championship safety after a draw at Huddersfield Town, staying up on 55 points and sending Peterborough United down with 54 points.

That freakishly high total is unlikely to be reached this term – Barnsley have 35 points with a possible 24 to play for – but Wilson is preparing for a fight to the finish on May 3.

“I don’t know if it’s guaranteed, but the forecast could be that it could go down to our last game against QPR and we have to be ready for that,” said Wilson, who confirmed recently that he will remain as Barnsley manager next season, whichever division they are in.

“If anything changes before that, and we are fortunate to pull out of it before, what a great bonus that would be.

“If it goes to the last game, we will be ready for it. I hope it doesn’t, in a positive way, but we have to be prepared if it does.”

With Doncaster Rovers finding much-needed form, the catchable teams above Barnsley (35pts) seem to be Charlton (38), Birmingham (40) and Blackpool (42).

The Reds travel to Charlton later this month, but their other remaining games are all against teams in the top half of the table.

Not that Wilson is reading too much into the remaining fixtures.

“Everyone will have a different opinion on who is catchable,” he said. “We just know that if we start winning games on a regular basis – like the last two games – then that is the only thing we can do. The rest will take care of itself.

“We can’t be up and down like a fiddler’s elbow, we have to really concentrate on an equilibrium on our approach to games, irrespective of what other teams do, because it can affect our performance.

“How many teams are still in it? I don’t really know. I can’t say who’s safe and who isn’t.

“Eight games to go, and with that many points to play for, who knows what will happen?”

Last season, Flitcroft’s team mustered 11 points from their final eight games – losing just once, a 6-0 hammering by Charlton – and it looks like Wilson will need to better that total to survive again this year.

Asked how many points would secure safety, Wilson replied: “I really don’t know. The fixture lists for all the clubs, including ourselves, show there are some tough ones in there.

“If you were a betting man, would you have had us to go to Reading and win?

“Unlikely, so we got three more points from a game which no one thought likely.

“We haven’t got a target. If you give yourselves a target and you don’t seem to achieve it, it’s a disappointment. If we say we are going to win our next eight games, and we lose one, then your disappointment is there and for the next seven games it affects you.”

Seven goals racked up against Reading and Yeovil saw the attackers win the plaudits, but Wilson has been impressed with his makeshift back-four after losing key defenders Peter Ramage and Martin Cranie.

Lewin Nyatanga has not even reached double figures this season due to injuries, while Frenchman Jean-Yves Mvoto has stepped in to impress. “Losing Ramage is a blow, his experience could be vital at this stage,” said Wilson.

“But you look at the lads who have stepped in and there is no doubt they have been brilliant.

“Lewin and Jean have come in and, after maybe a shaky start against Leicester, they have steadied the ship.

“They have been outstanding. They have done their jobs defensively absolutely brilliantly, and long may that continue.

“The one good thing about it is they are fresh, they haven’t played many games for one reason or another. What a great time to have fresh legs in there.

“They have got a lot to play for, and a lot to prove.

“Every game they play will be a big test, none more so than Brighton because their attacking options are very potent,” said Wilson.

“We have watched Brighton in recent days and they are a very good footballing side, one of the best in the league at what they do.”

Wilson – and No 2 Chris Hutchings – used to play for the Seagulls, but there will be no room for sentiment today against a side pushing for the play-offs.

Wilson expects a rousing Oakwell crowd to turn out today, boosted by successive away wins for their team.

“It’s great when you get wins on the road, but you always want to compound it with a home result,” said Wilson.

“The last two games have given us great belief, and given the fans belief, which is very important.

“And I thought we played for long spells, with our work ethic, against Bournemouth very well.

“We were just undone by a last-minute goal. We can take positives from that.

“The fans will be buoyed by the last two results and we have seen how they can lift the players when they are at their most vociferous,” he added.

“We will need that on Saturday, the onus will be on us as the home team.”