Valerien Ismael says Barnsley are determined to make the most of the very rare situation they have put themselves in this season – but adds they may still need ‘at least’ three wins from their last six games to make the play-offs.
The Reds are fifth in the table, three points clear of the sides outside the top six after they drew 1-1 at home to Reading on Friday then won 2-1 at Luton Town on Monday to set a club record for six straight away wins and also ten away victories in a second tier season. It is the first time they have competed for a place in the Premier League since 2000.
Ismael has previously said 75 points should put them in the play-offs, and they currently have 68 with six games left starting with tomorrow’s home fixture against Middlesbrough who are tenth and 11 points behind them.
Yesterday Ismael told the Chronicle: “I think three wins is at least what we need but you can see at the moment that Bournemouth and Reading take points with consistency so maybe we need more points this season. As long as we win our games, it doesn’t matter what is going on behind us.
“We want to give everything to stay where we are. We have already met our expectations for this season, but now we have new expectations.
“We are very determined because we are in a very good position and you never know what will happen next season. We want to get the job done this time.”
The Reds played 12 games in 37 days before the international break in March, after which they play eight games in the same number of days.
That will allow Ismael to have more time with them on the training pitch and ease the players’ recovery from games. The players spent Tuesday and Wednesday recovering from the Easter games then trained yesterday.
Ismael told the Chronicle: “It will help us. We know that, every time we have time to recover and have more training sessions with the guys, we immediately see the improvement and freshness on the pitch. It will be the same on Saturday.
“We can prepare the guys more and focus more on the opponents.”
Barnsley’s current total of 68 points was enough for Leicester City to qualify for the play-offs in 2013.
Ismael has collected 64 points in 33 games since being appointed in October, with just the top two picking up more. Only leaders Norwich have more points than the 32 the Reds have taken from 13 games in February, March and April while they have lost just once in 15 league fixtures.
Sixth-placed Reading, who are two points behind the Reds, are due to play four of the top eight in their last six games. One point further back are seventh-placed Bournemouth, who have won all three games since losing to Barnsley last month, and are set to play their game in hand on Tuesday.
Below Bournemouth, there is a seven-point gap to Mick McCarthy’s eighth-placed Cardiff City who lost twice over the Easter weekend.
The Reds cannot catch leaders Norwich, who beat Huddersfield 7-0 on Tuesday, and are 11 points behind second-placed Watford who are in the last of the automatic promotion places.
They are two points behind third-placed Brentford and one off fourth-placed Swansea City, but both have a game in hand. Swansea have lost four in a row without scoring while Brentford, from their Valentine’s Day loss to Barnsley, have won three of 11 matches including four straight draws.
After the Boro game, Barnsley face four matches in a row against sides in the bottom half of the table.
They will have eight days without a fixture before they visit relegation-battlers Coventry City on Sunday, April 18. The game has been moved back a day due to Coventry playing on the Thursday earlier that week against fellow strugglers Rotherham United who play four times in eight days due to previous cancellations for Covid-19.
The Coventry game is the first of three in six days for Barnsley who then visit Huddersfield Town on the Wednesday before welcoming Rotherham on Saturday April 24.
The Reds are due to complete their league fixtures on the next two Saturdays at Preston North End then at home to runaway leaders Norwich, who may be promoted as champions by then.