Barnsley v Wigan Athletic: Neill Collins lays down play-off challenge to his players

Neill Collins has challenged his Barnsley players to match what they have done in the first half of the season and secure a play-off spot in 2024.

The Reds, beaten finalists in the League One play-off final back in May, actually begin the new year in seventh place, one spot and one point outside the play-offs.

That’s after they squandered a two-goal lead at Peterborough United on Friday night.

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But Collins – who succeeded Michael Duff in the summer – believes continuing to do what they have been doing will be enough to secure a top-six spot come this May.

Neill Collins, Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)Neill Collins, Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)
Neill Collins, Barnsley manager (Picture: Bruce Rollinson)

“There are obviously things we can improve on,” said the Scotsman, “but if we can replicate in the second half of the season what we have done in the first, we’ll be in the play-offs.”

Starting the year with an Oakwell victory over a Wigan Athletic team who have disappointed this season and are looking over their shoulders at the bottom four, will be a big positive.

Barnsley go into the game feeling disappointment that they couldn’t close out victory at Peterborough, having led through goals from Herbie Kane and top goalscorer Devante Cole.

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Jonson Clarke-Harris, who is widely expected to leave Posh in January, provided what could be a memorable farewell in front of the home fans by heading in crosses from David Ajiboye and Harrison Burrows either side of the break to rescue a point.

Collins, pictured, added: “I’m really disappointed that we didn’t get rewarded for what was a fantastic performance. I don’t think we deserved to lose a goal at the end of that first half given the way we played.

“And to then concede a weak goal at the start of the second half, they are probably the only two negatives. I don’t know how Corey’s chance that hit the bar stayed out and we also had other chances against a top team in this division.

“Peterborough have probably been the most dominant team in the league over the last 15 games, but we really made it difficult for them. I felt we deserved all three points.”