The Reds head to the Midlands with a handsome three-goal first-leg lead, with Heckingbottom having already detected the feeling from some fans that they believe this evening’s game to be a foregone conclusion, and that a Wembley berth is virtually secured.
But Heckingbottom has issued a strong note of caution, heightened by this week’s experiences of Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday and Hull City, who were given major scares before progressing to the Championship final, despite both holding comfortable first-leg leads.
Heckingbottom, part of a Barnsley side who overcame a first-leg semi-final deficit to Huddersfield to progress to the League One final a decade ago, said: “A lot of people think it is all over. When I have been walking about I’ve heard people talking about Wembley this and Wembley that.
“But we have scored three goals and conceded none in a game and so can Walsall.
“You saw how Brighton set about Sheffield Wednesday and it could have changed the whole outcome of the game, but they weathered it.
“If a goal comes up against us, we have to fight back and win the game.”
Meanwhile, Heckingbottom’s counterpart Jon Whitney is urging the Saddlers to give the visitors ‘hell’ tonight, having blasted his side’s lack of fight in the second half at Oakwell on Saturday and stating that livelihoods are on the line.
And the Reds caretaker head coach says that he is expecting to encounter a ‘wounded animal’ this evening.
Heckingbottom, whose side won 3-1 at the Banks’s Stadium back in March, said: “We really have got a job to do and it is about going about it in the right manner. They are a wounded animal and will come right at us.
“Our players will have the mentality to go out and win the game. It has been the same in every single game and we will continue to do it.
“They are going to have a plan at some point to throw everything at us, we know that and we have to be ready and cope with it.
“They know what position we’re in and they have nothing to lose. They will have a plan and it is up to us to stop them.”
Progression tonight would seal Barnsley’s second Wembley appearance in just under two months and continue Heckingbottom’s fairytale spell in the dug-out with his hometown club.
The 38-year-old from Royston has already made history by becoming the first Barnsley boss to lead the club to glory in a cup competition in over a century, thanks to the Reds’ success in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final on April 3 – despite still retaining only caretaker head coach status.
But Heckingbottom says he has no qualms about his long-term future not yet being officially resolved, with talks likely to take place after the Reds’ play-off commitments are over.
On whether discussions are likely to be brought forward, Heckingbottom – who took over from Lee Johnson in early February – added: “No, I very much doubt it. It is a case of getting the games out of the way and seeing what happens.
“From day one, I have been doing the job as if I was doing it (full-time) anyway. It does not make a blind bit of difference to me.
“I keep approaching the next game and when it happens, it happens.”
Last six games: Walsall DLWWWL, Barnsley DWDDWW.
Referee: D Deadman (Cambridgeshire).
Last time: Walsall 1 Barnsley 3, March 5, 2016; League One.