BARNSLEY assistant head coach Dale Tonge is confident that the Reds’ togetherness will enable them to cope with the continued adversity which is testing their League One promotion drive.
Daniel Stendel’s second-placed side head into Saturday’s game with Walsall on the back of an 18-match unbeaten league run, but are likely to have to make do without midfielder Kenny Dougall for the rest of the season.
The Australian broke his leg in Friday night’s derby stalemate at Doncaster Rovers, which saw the Reds record a sixth successive clean sheet in the league for the first time since 1984.
Barnsley are also without goalkeeper Adam Davies, who produced a fine display at the Keepmoat Stadium to thwart Rovers, for the weekend trip to the Saddlers, with the Reds’ captain on international duty with Wales.
Top-scorer Kieffer Moore is also missing for the rest of the season on medical advice, but better news sees Cameron McGeehan – likely to replace Dougall – and Jacob Brown back in the fray after three-match bans, and Jack Walton steps in for Davies.
On the Reds’ keeping their top-two bid on course, Tonge said: “As a staff, we cannot take the credit for that. It is the players who have taken it upon themselves as a group. They have gone out socially and are doing things as a group and I think it is bearing fruit on the pitch.
I really do see similarities. It is more with the interaction in terms of between the players, not necessarily in terms of what you do in training or in games, really.Barnsley assistant head coach, Dale Tonge
“They understand what is required because the players who have come out have left a big hole. It is a big responsibility and I think the players are showing they are well worthy of that shirt.”
Tonge admits that the togetherness of the youthful Reds reminds him of his experiences as a young player in the squad who were promoted under Andy Ritchie in 2005-06.
“I really do see similarities. It is more with the interaction in terms of between the players, not necessarily in terms of what you do in training or in games, really.
“It is more the interaction in terms of day-to-day and the camaraderie between the boys.
“Every day, they are laughing and joking and I genuinely do see a lot of similarities in the spirit, whether that be in training, games or whatever.
“The youthfulness of them all is there to see. They come in every day in great spirits and with no negativity and it makes it a lot easier for us.”