Valerien Ismael has played down talk of a Barnsley promotion challenge but admits ‘everything is possible’ as they look to continue their fine form tomorrow at high-flying Swansea City.
After winning 2-1 at local rivals Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday then again at home to Preston North End on Tuesday, the Reds are 12th in the Championship with 28 points from 19 matches so far.
It is the highest they have been since early 2017 under Paul Heckingbottom other than the first week of last season.
They are 12 points above the relegation zone and four off the top six.
Only leaders Norwich City have collected more points than the Oakwell club since the appointment of Valerien Ismael who is the first Barnsley boss to win eight of his first 12 second tier games, including the last three.
They have 16 more points than at this stage of last season when they had collected 12 and were last.
The Reds have won after conceding the first goal in three of their last five Championship matches, which is the same amount of times they did so in the previous 298 games at that level.
Ismael is aware supporters will be dreaming of a promotion challenge.
He said: “For the fans it is normal to be excited and they should be happy and proud of the guys. But my job is to stay focused and prepare for the next game.
“It is a very very long season and we can’t make mistakes because we have too much euphoria.
“We are giving everything to reach our target of being safe in the Championship as soon as possible and we are on the way to that. It is not our thinking to look at the league table. If we reach our target as quick as possible, and we are still high in the table, we can speak about something else but now we focus on the games one by one. We want a big, big gap between us and the teams behind.”
He added: “If you believe in yourself and if you are ready to invest everything you have, everything is possible.
“It could be a season near the top but, with so many games, you could be quickly near the bottom. You have to stay focused on every game.”
After beating Birmingham City and Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley will tomorrow be looking for a third straight away win in the second tier for the first time since the start of the 1996/97 season in which Danny Wilson’s side were promoted to the Premiership.
The Reds are now looking for their first four-match winning run at this level since early 2013 under David Flitcroft.
The Swans are fourth in the table with 33 points from 19 games. They have the best defensive record in the division with just 12 goals conceded in 19 games.
Like Barnsley, they won in their local derby on Saturday, 2-0 at Cardiff City, but then lost 2-0 at lowly Derby County on Wednesday. They are unbeaten in their last six home games while they have lost just once at the Liberty Stadium all season, to Huddersfield Town in October. Their home record is the fourth best in the division and no one has conceded fewer goals on their own turf than Swansea’s four – with five clean sheets in the last six. Ismael said: “It will be a very difficult game for us. Swansea are a very good team who play good football but we will have a plan for them.
“It is a very important game.
“They are one of the best teams in the league so we need all our principles and mentality and focus. Last time when we rode for five hours to Wales we lost 3-0 to Cardiff (on November 3) but this time we want to do something else.”
Callum Styles, who has been a revelation for Barnsley at left wing-back this season, collected his fifth booking of the campaign against Preston and will tomorrow’s game. The Preston clash was the last game before the 19-match cut-off point for suspensions.
Jordan Williams might be ready after a hamstring injury but Ismael said he will start Clarke Oduor. The head coach said: “We knew it could happen that one player missed a game but it’s better that it’s for five yellow cards and not an injury.
“Callum has the chance to recover a little bit more than the other guys and be ready for Huddersfield (on Boxing Day).
“It will be a chance for Clarke to play and we have to prepare him for the game. Clarke is more ready than Jordan Williams because we need players who are 100 per cent fit and ready.”
Other than their 2006 penalty shoot-out win in the League One play-off final, Barnsley have not beaten Swansea in 14 meetings since 1983 – losing seven and drawing six. Their last three league clashes have been draws, with a 0-0 in Wales on December 29 last year following a 1-1 at Oakwell in October in which Andre Ayew opened the scoring three minutes before Alex Mowatt levelled.
The Reds have not won at Swansea in 11 attempts since 1974, losing nine. That run includes five games at The Vetch and six at the Liberty Stadium which opened in 2005. They have won four of 36 games at Swansea in total, losing 26.
Korey Smith, who had a loan spell at Barnsley in 2013, is a regular in the Swans midfield after moving from Bristol City for this season.
The Swansea match will be Barnsley’s ninth in 28 days, after which they will have a free midweek for the first time since the November international break – having played on Tuesday or Wednesday in each of the last four weeks.
They are due to finish 2020 with Yorkshire derbies at home to Huddersfield a week tomorrow then at Rotherham United three days later.