Mads Andersen says he expected Barnsley to challenge for promotion at the start of this season.

The Reds are in the top six with three games to play, having just survived relegation on the final day of last season.

Danish defender Andersen said: “I expected this at the start of the season.

“After an experience like last season, the group comes together and gets a stronger bond. I am not surprised by what we have done.

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“My friends and family are surprised, but I am not.

“I am proud of what we have achieved.

“We are in a good position but we take it game by game and we’ll see what happens.”

Andersen has started every Barnsley league game this season, playing every minute except at Reading in September when he was sent off.

He has made the most interceptions and clearances of any Championship player while only his former Oakwell club-mate Kieffer Moore has won more headers.

“I am happy with my performances.

“But, for me, it is also a team performance so, when the team does well, individually you look good.

“I have seen the stats but it’s not something I focus on.

“I focus on winning games and take it game by game.”

Andersen has forged a good partnership with fellow centre-back Michal Helik.

“I enjoy playing with him.

“He is a good defender and we have a good relationship and communication which is important.”

Helik recently made his Poland debut and Andersen hopes to receive a call-up for Denmark who have qualified for this summer’s European Championships.

“It is 100 per cent my goal to play with the national team. I haven’t had any talks with them but it is a big big motivation for me.”