Barnsley's Roberts destined for bigger things, says Mawson

Will The Shay prove a breeding ground for another Premier League star of the future? Richard Hercock assesses the impact of a '˜home-town' hero.

snuffed out: Barnsley central defender Marc Roberts, left, keeps Blades striker Che Adams in check at Bramall Lane. (Picture: Sport Images)

Marc Roberts has not even completed one season in the Football League but he is being tipped for the top.

The 25-year-old centre-back has impressed for his home-town club Barnsley since his summer transfer from National League side FC Halifax Town.

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Just like another former Shay old boy, Jamie Vardy, Roberts has that raw quality which could see him grace the top flight.

The rugged defender has been an integral part of Barnsley’s surge into the League One play-offs and a Wembley triumph in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy earlier this month.

He has helped Paul Heckingbottom’s Reds climb to sixth spot with clean sheets in their last three games.

They held second-placed Burton Albion to a scoreless draw, beat Peterborough United 1-0, then picked up a point after a 0-0 stalemate in the South Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United.

A makeshift defence of goalkeeper Adam Davies, and a back four of George Williams, Alfie Mawson, Roberts and Josh Scowen, snuffed out the goalscoring threat from Che Adams and Billy Sharp.

Roberts twice rescued his side from ‘certain’ goals. First, he covered after Davies dropped the ball and cleared a goal-bound effort from Matt Done.

Then, with the clock ticking down, he threw himself in front of Conor Sammon to deny the Blades substitute a late winner.

Mawson, who has prospered since moving from Brentford in the summer, has struck an instant partnership with Roberts.

The central defensive pairing has impressed and Mawson is in no doubt that his team-mate is destined for better things than League One.

“It’s a brilliant partnership,” said Mawson, 22. “We are good mates, and it always helps to have a friend to play alongside.

“You know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. I am sure Robbo is going to play at a higher standard, whether that’s with Barnsley or not.

“He works his socks off, and being a Barnsley lad always helps. The fans love that.

“He’s a monster, 25, and hasn’t reached the prime of his career yet. He’s been a revelation for us.

“If we can keep getting clean sheets, then bigger things are possible.”

The Reds know two wins from their final two games will secure a play-off spot. They host Colchester at Oakwell on Saturday before a final-day trip to leaders Wigan Athletic.

After Wembley and Bramall Lane, Heckingbottom knows his Reds side will have to get used to playing in front of large crowds if they are to prosper in the play-offs and beyond. “If we want to get where we want to be, which is play-off finals, we will be playing in huge games like that and we need to get used to it and handling big atmospheres.

“That’s our next challenge as a team, we’re doing lots right but we want to strive and keep getting better.

“Sheffield United billed it as a ‘must win’, it was their FA Cup final. They were desperate to beat us and it was do or die for them to get in the play-offs.

“We knew we were going to be playing good teams, but we’re a good team and we want to be better.

“It’s the next step, we’re never going to rest on our laurels and be happy with what we’ve got.”

As for the Blades, they stand four points off the play-offs, and need to win their last two games – away to Coventry City and home to Scunthorpe United – and pray for an unlikely set of results among their rivals.