JACK Shepherd has played more than he expected in his first season in professional football and is hoping to break back into Barnsley’s first team soon.

The centre-back signed from eighth- tier Pontefract Collieries in the summer, initially for the under 21s side but has featured for the Reds’ first team who play five divisions above his former club. \

Shepherd, the former Penistone Church and Athersley Rec man, quit his job as a kitchen-fitter to turn professional with the Oakwell club. He started the 2-0 league wins at Wigan Athletic and Cheltenham Town in late August and early September – impressing on the left side of the back three.

Shepherd told the Chronicle: “I have played a lot more than I expected.

“When I came in, I was training with the first team then I was given my chance in the cup and started twice in the league. You have to take those chances when you get them.”

On his full EFL debut at Wigan, Shepherd said: “It was very nerve-racking, but I always get nervous no matter where I am playing. But once you get out there, you have to be in the zone. We played very well and got a good result.”

Shepherd was denied his first professional goal at Cheltenham when his header crossed the line but was not given. He said: “I have seen the video.

“It was sent to me by a couple of people. It definitely crossed the line. It’s unfortunate but it happens in football.

“I am hoping to get a few goals this season, with my height. It’s something I would like to add to my game.”

He then lost his place to new signing and more experienced player Jamie McCart. Shepherd said: “Coming from a lower league, I was over the moon to start two games and I wasn’t expecting to play them all. The manager pulled me to one side and gave his reasons.

“We had a great conversation.

“I understand it’s a long season.

“It’s nice for him to dripfeed me in and pull me out when I need it.”

Kacper Lopata suffered a shoulder injury on Saturday and is expected to miss at least the upcoming games, giving a chance for players such as Shepherd, Mael de Givegney or Conor McCarthy to replace him.

“It is unfortunate and you never want anyone to get injured. But someone has to come in and fill his place. If it’s you, you have to take your chance and make that position yours then, when he does come back, if it is me that is playing, the manager can put faith in me.”