– Reds may ‘have to’ look at free agents, if there are more injuries
– Duff not ‘pinning all our hopes’ on Jalo but praises 16-year-old
– Martin and Phillips will ‘definitely have an impact at some point’
MICHAEL Duff knows Barnsley are ‘light’ in the forwards area, and the free agent market will be looked at if there are more injuries, but he believes others in his squad can step up.
The Reds are sixth in League One with 21 points from 13 games, after they drew 0-0 at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.
Their squad depth has been reduced by the recent injuries to forward Luke Thomas – expected to miss four months with a broken leg – and defender Conor McCarthy who is out for the season with a ruptured ACL in his knee.
The head coach was due to meet with club staff including chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad yesterday for a ‘quarterly review’ of the season – partly looking at which areas need strengthening in January. He has said they will be looking for more strikers as they ‘didn’t do enough’ in that area in the summer.
With James Norwood suspended for tomorrow’s game at Morecambe, having picked up five yellow cards, Josh Martin, Devante Cole and Jack Aitchison are the only senior forwards currently available.
Midfielder Adam Phillips has also been used in the front three previously while 16-year-old Fabio Jalo was on the bench for the first time in the league on Saturday and loanee Slobodan Tedic has been in and out of the squad with Duff calling him a ‘development player.’
Duff has alternated between playing two attacking midfielders behind a striker and a front two with a ‘number ten’ behind them.
He told the Chronicle: “The facts are we are light in that area. But it’s an opportunity for players to come into the starting 11, or onto the bench.
“I work with the people we’ve got. There’s no point we saying ‘we’re two short now.’ We might get more injuries. It’s up to the players to step up and the staff to come up with a formation that works and gets the best players on the pitch. We just get on with it, I have never been one for moaning and looking at negatives. Our strikers have done well.”
Barnsley wanted to bring in at least one more striker at the end of the summer transfer window but were not able to do so. Duff said at the time that they would look in the free agent market for possible new signings who did not currently have clubs.
He said yesterday: “That’s probably not dead but I don’t think there are many out there that would be beneficial.
“They have been out of contract for so long now. They would need six weeks (to get fit). I would never say never because, if we pick up more injures, it might be something we have to go into.
“We’re always looking but there’s nothing we’ve seen, at the minute, that we think can improve us.”
Jalo is very highly-rated at the club and netted his first two senior goals in the EFL Trophy at Doncaster Rovers last week. Duff said: “He’s 16 years old.
“He’s been great. He had a real flat spot for a month, which is expected at his age, but the Doncaster game kick-started him. He’s playing under 18s, under 23s, first team. It’s a lot to deal with and the last thing he needs is a bit of expectation.
“It’s hard being in this environment when, a few months ago, he was at school. We’re not wrapping him in cotton wool because it’s not the industry to do that but we’re not going to pin all our hopes on a 16-year-old because it’s not fair on him or the other players.
“But he’s definitely got potential and his two finishes against Doncaster were excellent.”
Martin and Phillips were both brought in late in the summer window and are each yet to start in the league, coming off the bench six and five times respectively.
Asked if that was down to competition in their positions, their performances in training or adapting to Duff’s style, he told the Chronicle: “Probably all of the above. They are both very good players.
“Adam is probably the one that, every day in training, we’re looking at him as a staff thinking ‘cor’.
“There is really, really good competition in that part of the pitch.
“We’re asking Josh to play a completely different way. We know what he can do with the ball but he’s having to learn the other side – the out of position and transitional stuff. That’s often the case for 23s players. He’s bought into that and he’s been good in the last few games. He’s definitely getting closer.
“They will definitely have an impact on the team at some point.”
The injuries to McCarthy, as well as Jordan Williams, meant that young defender Jasper Moon was on the bench on Saturday. Moon was someone Duff previously said was likely to be loaned out to a non-league club.
Duff said: “We’re too short now.
“There will be no one going out.
“On Tuesday in the task (a team-bonding exercise in the Peak District), it showed us how short we were.
“Jasper is definitely part of the group.
“He was excellent against Doncaster and his attitude has been first class.”