Barnsley v Derby County - Defiant Conor Chaplin refusing to be distracted by critics

BARNSLEY striker Conor Chaplin has sampled the highs of a successful promotion year at first club Portsmouth back in their League Two title-winning campaign of 2016-17.

But he admits that he has never felt anything like what he is currently experiencing, with the Reds threatening to become one of the stand-out stories of the EFL season if they can maintain their astonishing run of form.

In the bottom four when head coach Valerien Ismael first arrived at the club in October, Barnsley have been transformed into top-six contenders, with the Frenchman’s young and hungry side chasing their eighth successive league victory tonight.

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Saddled with no pressure in the run-in after already easily achieving their main season’s aim in terms of reaching 50 points – and avoiding a repeat of last season’s tortuous relegation fight – Barnsley’s players are having the time of their lives.

Barnsley's Conor Chaplin. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Chaplin said: “In terms of the feeling inside the changing rooms, this is better than it was when we were on an unbelievable run at the end of the season in League Two at Portsmouth.

“I don’t know why, but it is probably the best collective feeling and vibe within a group. We are not focused on what people say and any noise from the outside. We know what we have got in our changing room.”

The noise that Chaplin is referring to concerns some criticism of Barnsley’s tactics from rivals regarding their perceived direct style of football.

The latest barb came from Birmingham City defender Yan Valery, who claimed that Barnsley ‘don’t play football, they just play long balls’ after the Blues became the latest side to lose out to Ismael’s team.

As far as Chaplin and his team-mates are concerned, they will not be losing any sleep.

He added: “I saw the comments Valery made at the weekend. But we could not care less. We just want three points. It does not matter what teams or individual players think about us or individual managers do as a group and collective.

“We are honestly in such a good place as a whole team. We know what we want to do and how we are going to play. And that is all we care about and not anyone else and what they say.”

Another thing is for sure, Barnsley are not going to deviate from their relentless pressing approach and why should they.

Blessed with energy and youth, Barnsley’s squad are playing to their undoubted strengths, with rivals struggling to cope with their intensity.

The ability to utilise the five-substitution rule fully by rotating forwards in games is something that has been a key facet of Barnsley’s stellar recent form with results meaning that all of Ismael’s striking pool are buying into the strategy.

Chaplin added:.“I take massive interest in every other team in the EFL and I love to research into it. We are one of the only teams who actually do it.

“It is sustainable with the players we have got and rotation we use. It is not just rotation from game to game, but rotation in games. We have got that rotation down to a tee.”

Last six games: Barnsley WWWWWW; Derby WLWDLL.

Referee: K Stroud (Hants).

Last time: Barnsley 2 Derby 2, October 2, 2019; Championship.

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