DONOVAN Pines is ‘close’ to becoming Barnsley’s first signing of the January transfer window, with Neill Collins admitting ‘size matters’ in his back three.

The Reds, who are in the League One play-off places, have not played for 12 days but now host Bristol Rovers tomorrow and Carlisle United on Tuesday as they look to build on an eight-match unbeaten league run.

At the end of the second week of the window, and with 19 days until the deadline, they were in the advanced stages of a deal for United States international centre-back Pines who visited Oakwell last week and has returned for a second time this week.

They are keen to bring in a physically imposing defender, having lacked that at the back this season, and the six foot five Pines appears to provide that, although he is thought to have other options too.

The 25-year-old free agent – who left DC United late last year – has not played a competitive game since October 1 so may take time to reach full fitness.

Head coach Neill Collins told the Chronicle: “Until it’s done I am not going to comment on that.

“We have all been in these situations before then something crops up.

“But we’re hopefully close to making that announcement.”

A player like Pines would add size and strength to a back three which has been mainly made up this season of captain Jordan Williams – usually a full-back – Mael de Gevigney and Jamie McCart.

Collins said: “I personally think the back three has done really really well with the strengths they have. They have done so many positive things.

“Ultimately size matters in certain areas. As much as you want to compete and be aggressive, when you are a certain size and physicality, you can’t always do that. That’s why, in the EFL, there are a lot of big strong players for those aerial duels. It’s something we’ve been a little bit short on.

“Kacper Lopata brings some of that but has been injured.

“Hopefully we get the right player at the back who helps us.”

Asked if a signing like Pines would leave him happy with his squad for the remainder of the season, Collins said ‘I think so’ and added: “That position in particular would strengthen us.

“A big part of the window is to keep all the pieces we’ve got.

“We’ll always continue to look at what can make us better. Managers always want something else.

“But I believe we’re heading in the right direction and one or two additions is all we need.”

Barnsley are also prepared with lists of possible replacements for any first team player who is sold although chairman Neerav Parekh has said such departures are ‘extremely unlikely.’

As of earlier this week, the Chronicle understands there had been no official bids for any of Barnsley’s first team players.

Top-scorer Devante Cole is out of contract at the end of the season and has been of interest to other clubs previously.

Hungary midfielder Callum Styles – whose next game for Barnsley would be his 150th – has a release clause in his contract thought to be at least £2million.

Others out of contract at the end of the season include Williams and regular starters Herbie Kane and Nicky Cadden.

Collins said: “When you have good players, there will be interest.

“There have been a lot of questions asked but nothing I can report that is concrete.”

Collins added that he expects loan stars Liam Roberts and John McAtee to stay all season.

It was confirmed last week by Rortherham that Jamie McCart would be staying.

Collins said: “Jamie has been excellent, really consistent and important. Whatever the agreement between clubs, you need the player to want to stay which Jamie does.

“Loans are sometimes difficult because what are their ultimate intentions?

“We’re very fortunate that some of our most committed guys are loan players.”