NEILL Collins is relishing Barnsley’s gruelling pre-Christmas schedule after what he hopes will prove to be a valuable fortnight off from competitive games.

The Reds have had two weeks off following the 1-0 win at Exeter City on October 7, when John McAtee netted a 90th-minute winner for a fifth successive away victory.

Barnsley will now enter a busy run of fixtures with three games in the next week and no weekends off currently scheduled for the rest of the season unless they are knocked out of the FA Cup by non-league Horsham next month.

Head coach Collins told the Chronicle: “We are looking forward to it.

“We have had a good balanced schedule up to this point with breaks which we’ve used.

“But now we’re ready to play a lot of games, and give guys opportunities to play.

“We’re looking forward to the EFL Trophy, the FA Cup and league.

“There is a lot to play for.”

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Collins has previously highlighted Barnsley’s starts to games as being crucial.

They have conceded penalties to open the scoring in three of their four defeats at Oakwell this season.

The last time they came from behind to win was in November 2021 at home to Derby County but the last time they lost after taking the lead was in April 2022 against Preston North End.

Collins said: “We want to start games well.

“They say that in every dressing room but we’re looking at how we do that, home and away.

“I am aware that the club’s record of coming from behind has not been good in the past and that is something we aim to change.

“I think we can change it and where some of it comes from.

“It might take time but, when we break that duck, it will give us another string to our bow and, when we go behind, we will know we can still win.”

Barnsley’s coach caught fire on the way back from Exeter, being engulfed in flames with no injuries but thousands of pounds worth of work equipment and personal items being destroyed.

The players and staff were taken to a service station then were picked up by the Cheltenham Town FC coach, with most finally getting home after 4am on the Sunday.

Collins told the Chronicle last week that the Reds were ‘very fortunate’ that no one was hurt in the blaze.

He said yesterday: “It was an unfortunate incident.

“But I believe the players are all fine.

“The club will do their best to make sure we get there safely.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened, it’s just unfortunate we were part of it.

“We’ve been on a bus trip to Manchester since then (for a behind-closed-doors game last week) so we have crossed that bridge already.”

Barnsley trained early last week before having five days off then returning this week to prepare for tomorrow’s visit to Leyton Orient.

Collins said: “It’s been great.

“It probably came at the best possible time considering what happened on our way back from Exeter.

“If we had been playing that week it would be difficult in terms of equipment and the disruption.

“The players have had time off and then trained well.

“We’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks but we think we have made best use of the time.”

What have the Reds worked on?

“It’s a good time to touch bases on two or three main aspects – out of possession, in possession and get a couple of other things right.

“We want to continue to do things well, we have started restricting teams’ chances better. We have spent more time with players on video work.

“We want to learn lessons from mistakes and make sure they don’t happen again.”

Following the trip to London at the weekend, Barnsley will host Shrewsbury Town, who are currently 18th, from 7.45pm on Tuesday.

Four days later, on October 28, Barnsley host Fleetwood Town who are managed by ex Reds boss Lee Johnson and currently fourth-bottom.