BARNSLEY head coach Neill Collins admits Barnsley have ‘quite clearly’ made their automatic promotion chances more difficult after a goalless draw with lowly Cheltenham Town - but he is still remaining positive the Reds can break into the top two this season.

The Reds went into Saturday’s game hopeful of closing the gap to Derby County in second as the top four sides - Peterborough, Bolton and Portsmouth - all faced off against each other.

But his side’s 0-0 draw at home to the relegation-battling Robins and both Derby and Pompey picking up three points means the Reds are seven points adrift of the automatic promotion places.

Collins, who has been optimistic yet realistic about the club’s chances all season, still believes they can crash the top two’s party.

He told the Chronicle: “We really wanted the three points because of where we’re at at the table - it felt like a defeat.

“We knew how important the game was - but we didn’t get three points.

“We need to learn a couple of lessons and move on.

“We’ve got a game in hand so that’s not changed.

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“We’d have liked to have been five points behind.

“We’ve made it more difficult for ourselves quite clearly.

“But there’s eight games left and we’re going to give it our best shot to win all eight.

“We’ll see where that leaves us.”

Top-scorer Devante Cole, who has scored 17 league goals so far this campaign, dropped to the bench last week for Barnsley’s 3-2 win away at bottom club Carlisle.

Collins instead opted for the physical presence of Sam Cosgrove, who has been in and out of the Reds team this season, and started him again against Cheltenham on Saturday.

The 27-year-old signed from Birmingham City on deadline day in September - and has since played 26 times for Collins, scoring three goals, assisting twice and receiving one red card.

Cole, now 28, has not scored since Barnsley’s 1-1 draw away at Bolton on February 2 - but the head coach said being able to drop the league’s second-top scorer shows the quality the side has, and the selection situation is a good headache to have.

“I think Sam has been excellent,” he added.

“We missed the physical side he brought when he went off.

“He’s played really well in the last two games as he has done when he’s been coming on in other game.

“Devante’s having a really great season, Macca has been doing well so we have guys up there.

“We’ve had goals from everywhere in the team.”

Young fringe striker Aiden Marsh came off the bench on Saturday, to no avail, whilst Max Watters has been playing for the under-21s.

Teenage sensation Fabio Jalo has been out injured for the last two months with a knee problem but is close to a first-team return.

He has been called up to Portugal u19s international squad for their upcoming European Championship qualifiers.

On Marsh, Collins added: “Aiden is there because he looks bright - he looks like he can get a goal.”

The Reds could find themselves ten points adrift of the top two by 5pm tomorrow after their game against Portsmouth was called off last week due to international call-ups in the Pompey squad.

Barnsley host Cambridge United on Good Friday before travelling to Burton Albion on Easter Monday.

They then face long trips to Charlton Athletic on April 6 and Stevenage on April 9, before hosting Reading on April 13.

The rearranged match against Portsmouth will take place on Tuesday, April 16 and Collins and his side will then travel to Blackpool on April 20.

The Reds will end their League One campaign on April 27 at Oakwell against Northampton Town.

They could then take part in the play-offs with the first leg likely to be held on May 4, the second on May 11 and the final on Saturday on May 18.