Winnall is eager to stay on the road to Wembley

Sam Winnall, right, celebrates with Kevin Long after his Barnsley team-mate scored the winner at Oldham earlier this month (Picture: Steve Riding).
Sam Winnall, right, celebrates with Kevin Long after his Barnsley team-mate scored the winner at Oldham earlier this month (Picture: Steve Riding).
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Barnsley players can forget their relegation troubles this weekend as they chase a glorious day out at Wembley.

The Reds slumped to bottom of League One last Saturday, despite a 1-1 draw with neighbours Sheffield United.

Tomorrow, while many clubs in the lower leagues are involved in the FA Cup second round, Barnsley travel to Wigan Athletic for a re-arranged Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern semi-final.

Victory at the DW Stadium would secure a two-legged area final, and the chance of a trip to Wembley.

The majority of players at Oakwell have never played at the national stadium, including striker Sam Winnall.

The 24-year-old former Scunthorpe United forward is keen to achieve a boyhood dream.

“We have gone into every game in the JPT seeing it as a road to Wembley,” said Hammill, after early round wins over Scunthorpe, Bradford City and York City.

“There’s a lot of players in our squad – including myself – who have never played there.

“It would be a fantastic day out, on a personal level, and a fantastic day out for the fans at Wembley.

“It’s a really good opportunity for us. Wigan will be a tough test, they are a strong team, and have a budget which is much higher than most teams in League One.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game going there, but we believe we can win.

“We believe we are going to play some good football, win, get through to the Northern area final, and continue on our path to Wembley.

“I have been there as a fan so know what it’s like to sit in the stands and watch.

“For a player, it’s not something everyone gets to achieve, so it’s something you can tick off your bucket list.”

Barnsley’s memories of a recent eight-match losing run in League One are still raw, but the Oakwell board kept faith with under-pressure manager Lee Johnson.

Key players like midfielder Conor Hourihane have returned from injury, and four points from their last three league outings – including a win at Oldham Athletic – suggest an upturn in fortunes.

It was Hourihane who snatched a late equaliser against the Blades last weekend, and Winnall believes that could be a defining moment in their League One season.

“It was a massive result, not just for the fans, but for us as well,” he said.

“(It was) the first time in a long time that we have showed a bit of grit. We had to dig deep just to get that equaliser.

“It’s given us all a boost and training this week has been very bright, hopefully given us a boost going into this weekend.

“It was a special feeling because you don’t want to lose in the big games, like a South Yorkshire derby.

“To get the equaliser, it did feel like a win at the time. I know I was buzzing and you could tell from the atmosphere in the ground, it felt like a bit of a season-turner.

“The run of bad performances that we were having seem to be over.

“We are starting to find our performances now, delivering some decent stuff.

“The game against Sheffield was a bit different; it was a battle, a vintage derby.

“We are starting to bring our quality onto the pitch now, and it’s time to start turning that quality into results.

“We know we have to play better, we know our results have to be better.”

Winnall netted twice in November, and he believes the arrival of Hammill and Hourihane’s return have been key.

“Adam has been a massive boost for everyone,” he said. “As players we know the quality he brings, and for the fans he was a cult hero here before.

“I knew him from Wolves, he is a mate of mine. It’s great seeing him back at the club.

“His quality in wide areas is something I, particularly, can benefit from.”

Winnall returned to the starting XI against the Blades and is determined to keep hold of the shirt.

“Me being a perfectionist, I will never be happy,” he said. “I will always want to score more goals, and there’s always areas to improve.

“But as long as I keep getting in the right areas, players like Adam and Conor can find me to score a few more goals.

“Continuity always helps performances. When you get used to a settled team, you can learn each others’ games.

“Now we have found our shape, and squad, I think we can only go from strength to strength. We just have to turn these performances into results.

“It’s always frustrating not starting; you just have to keep working hard, do your bit, and keep your head down.

“Thankfully the gaffer picked me for the game on Saturday, and I will be trying to work as hard as possible to keep that shirt now.”