Barnsley v West Bromwich Albion: Ready for lift-off, says Reds goal hero Conor Chaplin

Hat-trick hero: Barnsley's Conor Chaplin.
Hat-trick hero: Barnsley's Conor Chaplin.
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FOR Conor Chaplin, it represented a ‘coming-of-age’ moment.

In case anyone is wondering, it is nothing to do with his own stellar recent impact for Barnsley either.

It did have everything to do with Saturday’s priceless late victory at Millwall, which saw the Reds claim their third successive league win at the New Den to provide themselves with the perfect tonic ahead of a tough festive double-header against West Brom and Swansea.

Much has been made of the number of Championship rookies whom Barnsley recruited in the summer, with defensive naivety having pockmarked many of their performances in the first half of the season.

But events at Millwall saw them survive a key test of character and nerve, with forward Chaplin and assistant head coach Matt Rose both of the view that it could be a significant moment in the Reds’ campaign.

Chaplin said: “It was big for many reasons. It is a tough place to go for any side, never mind a young team who you don’t know too much about their characters.

“Maybe it was a coming-of-age performance. Maybe some of the lads needed to think: ‘I am good enough’ and we are good enough to compete in this league.

“The (recent) performances have been brilliant and you obviously take confidence from that as well.

“But that only goes so far because you need to start getting results at some point and we have been doing that recently. It is something we are looking to continue.”

Offering his own take, Rose – weaned on a winning environment in his early days in the game with Arsenal in the mid-Nineties, where the Londoners prided themselves on their defensive backbone – added: “The players knew that the first thing you have to do at Millwall is win your battle.

“We grew into the game after the first 30 minutes, which was a big shock.

“But the back four in particular did very well (afterwards).

“We can play football. But we cannot go into every game and score four goals and win 4-3. It is not going to happen.

“Sometimes, you have got to win ugly and grind it out. I come from a time when Arsenal used to win 1-0 (all the time).

“It is a fact that you have to be strong and resilient and Saturday has given us a good foundation to push on.”

That resolve is likely to be seriously tested by the arrival of leaders West Bromwich, with the Baggies to be backed by 3,500 fans at Oakwell.

Barnsley handed Slaven Bilic’s side a real scare in the reserve fixture at The Hawthorns, threatening to produce the shock result of the Championship season before the hosts rescued a point in a 2-2 draw in October.

Nevertheless, it was a confident display from the Reds and that is certainly not in short supply among in-form striker Chaplin, who has scored seven goals in his past seven outings for the club, including a hat-trick last time out at Oakwell.

First to admit that head coach Gerhard Struber’s decision to switch him to a central attacking role has provided him with a huge fillip, he said: “He (Struber) has given me great confidence through picking me and playing games.

“I am closer to the goal and not playing in a withdrawn role and am right up top. That is probably where I see myself best – playing right ‘on the shoulder’.

“Ever since half-time at Blackburn, it has been really good. But it is not something I am dwelling on either.

“I am definitely looking to pick up points for the team, score more goals and get more assists individually, which will ultimately help every one.”

Last six games: Barnsley LWLDWW; West Brom WWWDWD.

Referee: T Harrington (Cleveland).

Last time: Barnsley 3 West Brom 1, September 29, 2009; Championship.