Flitcroft: I admire Dons but we won’t fear them

David Flitcroft has dismissed fears Barnsley’s FA Cup exploits could have an adverse affect on their battle against relegation from the Championship.

Jason Scotland celebrates with Scott Golbourne and David Perkins

The Reds have been revitalised since Flitcroft stepped up to replace axed Keith Hill, winning six out of seven games to give them a fighting chance of avoiding the drop as well as securing a place in the last 16 of the FA Cup.

Impressive wins at Blackpool and Middlesbrough have wiped out the gap to fourth-from-bottom Wolverhampton, leaving the Oakwell club just below the Midlands outfit on goal difference.

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But tomorrow Barnsley face MK Dons in the FA Cup fifth round knowing they stand just 180 minutes from a Wembley appearance.

Not that Flitcroft will allow his players to become complacent.

“I have thought could it implode, and it can’t because this group is strong now,” he said.

“They haven’t just won one game, they have gone on a run and there are certain memories: how they won at Middlesbrough, how they turned the game round at Blackpool. They will need those experiences over the next 16 games (15 league games plus at least one more cup match).

“I won’t let it happen, I don’t do complacency, I don’t do average. This journey is built on respect.

“Any complacency around the place, I will be on to it straightaway. My eyes don’t miss much. Being assistant for six years, you have to be the eyes that see everything. I will be looking for complacency more than anyone.”

Despite MK Dons being in League One, Flitcroft is expecting a tough tie and refuses to see them as underdogs.

He said: “MK Dons beat Sheffield Wednesday over two games and beat QPR so they are a force, they have good players.

“Whether we are underdogs, whether that suits us, I am not really sure – I haven’t used that word. I think if you under-estimate anyone in your life then you come unstuck.

“That’s one thing we won’t be doing, under-estimating MK Dons.

“I have got no selfish players in that group, there are a lot of selfish footballers up and down the country. I don’t surround myself with anyone who is selfish in their motives, I am a team player. I don’t surround myself with anyone who is not prepared to work as hard as I am. That’s why this group is special.”

The Dons have made a name for themselves as a cultured, passing side, but Flitcroft has warned his side not to fear them.

“You have to be patient (playing MK Dons), you have got to have structure, make sure that everyone knows their job.

“But what you do know is they are going to have huge amounts of possession, that’s the way that Karl (Robinson, manager) wants to play the game. It’s an exciting brand of football. You have to respect it, admire it, but certainly don’t fear it.”

Barnsley’s revival is testament to the hard work and long hours put in by Flitcroft, who insists his predecessor deserves huge credit for laying the groundwork at Oakwell.

“Keith (Hill) brought good players here, but we were fighting everybody and people were telling us they weren’t good players,” he said.

“If you tell players they are not good players, they listen to that. It was all wrong, the dynamics of the whole place was all wrong.

“I have had to change the dynamics, work on relationships within the club.

“Yes, I have changed the system, changed people’s mentalities, I manage in a different way to what Keith did, but we have momentum now and have started scoring goals.

“We have just tweaked it by bringing a few players in – Chris O’Grady, Jason Scotland, Rory Delap. They have added a different dimension, competition is healthy.

“I think from a club that was turning into victims, I think I have arrested that. You have got to adapt and overcome, and that’s what we need to do for these last 16 games.”

If Flitcroft needs any example of how Cup success can affect league form, he only needs to look at tomorrow’s opponents.

Since the Dons produced a 4-2 giantkilling of Premier League QPR last month they have seen their promotion push from League One fade, failing to win in four games.

They lost to Yeovil, Bournemouth and Oldham, before gaining a 0-0 draw at Doncaster Rovers in midweek.

In contrast, Barnsley have won their last three matches since knocking out Hull City at the 
KC Stadium in the fourth round.

“We know we’ve got a game to play,” Robinson said. “Barnsley have won four out of five games in the Championship and drawn one. For them to compete and do what they are doing against good sides, we know we’re in for a right good game. David Flitcroft has done a wonderful job since he’s taken over and we know we will have to be at our best.

“It will be a good old-fashioned FA Cup tie on Saturday and I can’t wait.”

Reds youngster Reuben Noble-Lazarus has signed a new two-year deal to stay at Oakwell until the summer of 2015. The 19-year-old became the youngest player to play in the Football League in 2008, aged 15.