DARRELL Clarke, whose Cheltenham Town side visit Oakwell today, should be in the running for Manager of the Year says Neill Collins.

The Robins are fourth-bottom in League One, one place but five points from safety.

They did not score in any of their first 11 league games this season – equalling an English Football League record – and picked up just two points from their first 12. But, after replacing Wade Elliott with Clarke, they improved – including with a win over leaders Portsmouth – and were a point off safety last month following three straight wins.

But they are now winless in five, including a 2-1 loss at promotion-chasing Oxford United on Saturday then they did not play in midweek unlike most sides in the division. They have the second worst away record and the fewest away goals in League One with 11, while only Sheffield Wednesday have scored fewer on the road in the EFL.

Manager Clarke lost at Oakwell as Bristol Rovers manager in 2018, then home and away to the Reds as Port Vale boss last season in the league but knocked them out of the EFL Trophy.

Head coach Collins told the Chronicle: “For me, Darrell probably should be up for Manager of the Year. It’s not just about what he’s done but he was taking over a group whose confidence was probably rock bottom with players out of form. He has managed to turn that around and they have a great opportunity to stay up.

“That is all down to him, and the players showing a lot of resilience.

“They have taken some big scalps and hopefully they don’t take ours.”

This will be Barnsley’s first home game since losing 5-1 at home to Lincoln City on Saturday, their heaviest ever third tier defeat at Oakwell.

They then won 3-2 at bottom club Carlisle United in midweek.

Collins said: “We have to approach it in the professional way that we have approached 90 per cent of our games.

“Cheltenham are very aggressive against the ball and in how they want to play. They have been in every game.

“They will ask a lot of questions and make us defend. But we have dealt with that a lot this year.

“We have had to deal with expectations from outside a lot and that was a danger at Carlisle on Tuesday.

“We want the opportunity to put right the last home game.”

Barnsley’s players and staff were given a lift home by the Robins’ coach after their bus caught fire near Cheltenham on the way back from Exeter in October.

Barnsley loaned centre-back Jack Shepherd to Cheltenham last month.

He started six games, winning three and scoring his first professional goal against fellow strugglers Port Vale.

He is ineligible for Saturday’s game.

Left-back Ben Williams, who spent five years at Oakwell until 2022 and played 41 games, has been in and out of the Robins team but has not played in three games.

The two clubs have met five times, with a draw followed by four Reds wins.

Barnsley have won all three trips to Whaddon Road, including earlier this season when Devante Cole and Max Watters netted in a 2-0 success.

Cheltenham drew at Oakwell in 2002 then lost 1-0 in the second game of last season, with their former player Luke Thomas netting the only goal.