JASPER Moon is thrilled to be getting minutes in the Barnsley first team with the Championship play-offs just days away.
The 20-year-old came on at half-time in Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Preston North End, playing in central midfield despite being a centre-back. Moon – who has been at Oakwell for four years since being released by Leicester City – had made his debut as an 87th-minute substitute at Rotherham United in December.
Moon told the Chronicle: “I was a little bit shocked that I came on at half-time but it shows the gaffer trusts me.
“The result was not the best and it’s against what we’re trying to do by building momentum going into the play-offs.
“But, on a personal note, it was really good to get 45 minutes and showcase what I can do. I thought I did quite well.
“After the game I had message after message on my phone and all my friends and family were really happy and proud.
“It’s a big step in my football career.
“I had a big injury last year and I questioned whether I would ever come back so to be where I am now is amazing. It’s a credit to myself and the medical staff at the club. This is the perfect time for me to be playing, with the play-offs coming up which are some of the biggest games in football.”
Moon only started playing in midfield this season after under 23s boss Martin Devaney moved him there to make way for a centre-back trialist.
That led to first team head coach Valerien Ismael playing him in the centre in training. Barnsley are low on options to partner Alex Mowatt in the middle as Herbie Kane is injured, so Romal Palmer is the only other fit central midfielder in the first team squad.
Centre-back Aapo Halme has been used in central midfield recently.
Moon said: “There are a lot of good players in that position.
“Romal has been brilliant this season and Herbie and Aapo add a lot to the team. The competition is really high and it makes training a lot better.
“When Herbie got injured, I started to train there all the time. The hardest bit is players coming at you from all sides instead of always facing the ball as a centre-back. You have to be very aware.
“Alex Mowatt makes it a lot easier because he is always telling you what to do without thinking about it. Watching him in training is good to learn.”
Moon almost scored his first professional goal but Preston goalkeeper Daniel Iversen saved his low effort after a free-kick dropped to him.
“I just hit it as hard as I could and I thought it was going in.
“Because I caught it so sweet, it went straight at the goalkeeper and he saved it so I wasn’t the happiest.”
Moon hopes for more minutes at home to champions Norwich City in the final league game of the season tomorrow.
“We know as a team that the last few games, apart from Huddersfield, we haven’t been at it 100 per cent. Against Norwich we will be all guns blazing and back to basics of what we are good at.
“They are the perfect warm-up for the kind of team we will play in the play-offs.
“They have just got promoted to the Premier League and we want to get ourselves there.”
Moon has enjoyed playing under head coach Ismael, saying: “He’s a really good manager. We have all noticed a difference and stepped up our levels.
“The main difference is the mentality. He’s made us into winners whereas, before, we didn’t really have that belief. Any little thing I am not sure about, I can go and knock on his door and he’s happy to chat to me for five or ten minutes or however long it takes.”
Ismael told the Chronicle: “Since the injury to Herbie Kane, we needed to find another solution. We have Aapo but, in Preston, you need something between Aapo and Romal. Jasper has been incredible in training in the last three or four weeks, playing all the time in midfield. He gives us the feeling he is ready to play and this shows that, if young players are patient and work hard, you get the rewards. He played well and it was important for us to see him finally at that level. It will give us another option.”