Neill Collins says Barnsley’s 2-1 win over Bristol Rovers ‘felt like a big one’ and hailed his players’ character.

Devante Cole netted just before half-time then Rovers levelled midway through the second half with one of their many chances only for Corey O’Keeffe to win it five minutes later.

Collins told the Chronicle: “It was a tough like I knew it would be. It felt like a big one because Bristol will still have an eye on the play-offs, they are good enough.

“The players have trained fantastically and, in the first half we were excellent in most parts apart from maybe the final pass or cross. Once we got that right we scored and probably should have done that a little bit more.”

Cole’s goal was his 15th of the season and 40th for Barnsley. Collins said: “It’s a fantastic record. He’s hungry for goals. But he’s got 15 because of the people around him as well. He should be hungry to continue that and I am sure he is, and try to see how many he can score.”

Rovers missed two big chances in the first half then wasted a series of big opportunities after the break as Barnsley looked like continuing their recent record of squandering winning positions with a poor second half display.

Collins said: “In the second half, Bristol were very aggressive and made us defend. We could have handled a lot of those situations better. They brought on two big strikers and we don’t have that dominant presence although the lads stood up to it really well.

“While Bristol forced some mistakes, they were self-inflicted - poor clearances, poor decisions, trying to dribble out.

“There has been a lot said about second half not being our strong suit in the last four games but, prior to that, we were the best team in the league in the second half. We just need to show concentration and quality like we did after the equaliser. Credit to the players for sticking at it.”

O’Keeffe’s winner came from a superb assist by Adam Phillips who beat a man and supplied a fine pass.

Collins said: “It was no surprise that both goals came from really good play. Adam could have shot but showed awareness to put it on a plate for Corey who showed great composure.”

O’Keeffe added: “I am buzzing with that. I wanted to score for a while now. My last goal was a couple of months ago now. So I am delighted.

“Phillo said he would get me an assist because he’s been giving it me loads in training and I said: ‘make sure you do it on Saturday then.’

“When he got the ball I thought he would shoot so, when he chopped, I thought I was offside. So I had come back a bit then he rolled it me and I put it cross the goal.

“In the last few games we’ve gone in a goal to the good then the other team had to show a reaction and came out firing in the second half. They got the goal but, after that, we did well to rock the game back to us, score and the way the lads saw it out was brilliant.”

Goalkeeper Liam Roberts made a series of important saves in goal for Barnsley, including two one-on-ones in the first half.

Collins said: “We know how good Robbo is. He hasn’t had to make too many saves like that since he’s returned from injury. That is what he’s there for. He’s been fantastic. He’ll take confidence and the team takes confidence from him being able to do that.”

Luca Connell and Jamie McCart missed the game through minor injuries and were replaced by Jon Russell and full home debutant Jack Shepherd.

“When you win sometimes it’s easy to forget the players you are missing. Luca is obviously pivotal but we’re protecting him because we need him at 100 per cent. Jamie McCart is similar. They are both very small strains and they could be available for Tuesday.

“We have to trust our squad and the two guys who came in did really well.

“It’s really difficult when you’re coming into to a team who has had really good results.

“Jack acquitted himself well as he has very time he has played. It’s very difficult for Jon coming into our busy midfield with what we ask the midfielders to do. He showed signs of quality and signs that he’s not been playing.”