Milton Keynes Dons v Barnsley FC: Reds cannot afford to 'stand still', warns Michael Duff

NOTWITHSTANDING Tuesday's result, Barnsley will head into the play-offs in a good place in a fortnight's time - regardless of events in their final two matches of the regular campaign as well.

It is also right to suggest that the Reds can look back on an uplifting, successful season when they do their debrief into 2022-23 - whatever transpires in the end-of-season lottery.

Of course, the devout hope of everyone connected with the club is that the Oakwell outfit go all the way and are the last team standing at Wembley in late May. They certainly possess the tools to do that.

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If they don't, then they should be wise to the experiences of their opponents last weekend and their opposition today once they move forward in the summer.

Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.
Michael Duff. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

After being in firm play-off contention at the top end of the table in 2021-22, the Us and MK Dons have swapped a top-six push for a relegation fight.

It's a reminder that things can change fast if you stand still and serves as a warning, further down the road.

"There's been building blocks put in place,” said Barnsley boss Michael Duff.

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"You look at the teams in the play-offs now and only one of them can go up. "Then, you have one that might miss out and two from three from Derby, Bolton and Peterborough.

"They will be stronger next year and the teams coming down plus the Charltons and Oxfords. Portsmouth will be stronger again. If you stand still, you get left behind.

"Rather than using cheap words like 'it's fuel for your motivation' and we'll go harder next year', I say all the time that talk is cheap.

"It's how you are going to use it and live and die by those words. If you don't prepare to live by it, don't say them.

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"That's hopefully a conversation we don't need to have as we will go up. We will cross that bridge when we come to it."

While there was disappointment at Barnsley's hopes of reaching the top-two finally ending at the hands of an impressive Ipswich Town side in midweek, there was perspective wherever you looked.

Few, if anyone, expected the club to be in the automatic promotion mix last summer and it is a barometer of how far the club have travelled under the admirable Duff.

He continued: "We have managed to stop the rot and reverse the momentum. Whether that momentum can get us up? Hopefully it can. But if it doesn't, there's something to build on.

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"We still have an opportunity. This group were written off really really early before a ball was even kicked and we had a few kicks along the way, early on.

"People were quite quick to jump on the bandwagon in terms of 'it's the new board, it's rubbish, sell everyone - it's doom and gloom.'

"There have been loads of positives (since) and the connections have been made. Can we finish it off and get that last available slot? We will do everything we can to try and make it.

"It might not happen. But even if it doesn't happen - and without trying to make excuses - I think it has still been a successful season and something to build on."