NEILL Collins says Barnsley’s game at Charlton Athletic from 3pm tomorrow will ‘be like playing a top six team’.

The Reds will look for a fifth successive away win, against the Addicks who are currently 16th, eight points and five places clear of the relegation zone.

The London club were in danger of dropping into the fourth tier for the first time ever in February when they were outside the relegation zone on goal difference during an 18-match winless run.

But Nathan Jones – the former Luton, Stoke and Southampton boss who was appointed earlier this year – has them on a ten-game unbeaten run, with seven draws including the last three.

This week they drew 1-1 at Exeter City on Friday – thanks to a late own goal – then 0-0 at home to Stevenage on Monday. Only the bottom two have fewer wins than their ten but they have drawn the most in the EFL with 17.

Collins told the Chronicle: “Nathan Jones is a very experienced manager who has had a lot of success. He has them well-organised. They are not conceding a lot and unbeaten in ten.

“Charlton have a fantastic squad and stadium. That they are where they are shows the stark reality of this league.”

Charlton have the division’s top-scorer in 21-goal Alfie May. Collins said: “Alfie May has been exceptional, to score that many goals. It’s very impressive. He’s a real livewire. But they have multiple good players throughout their squad.

“It’s like playing a top six team.

“The league doesn’t reflect that but I think that’s what it will feel like.”

He added: “They are really dangerous. They have drawn with Portsmouth and Bolton, and beaten Derby since Nathan has taken charge.”

Jones is Charlton’s third manager of the season after Dean Holden was sacked in August and Michael Appleton in January. The Welshman left Luton last season before their promotion, for Southampton who sacked him ahead of their relegation from the Premier League.

He came up against Barnsley seven times at Luton manager, winning three times, drawing twice and losing twice.

He has reunited with goalkeeper Harry Isted, who was at Barnsley last season before choosing to move to Charlton after his loan from Luton ended.

He has been injured for much of the season but has been the regular stopper under Jones.

Slobodan Tedic – who was on loan in the first half of the season having been at Oakwell last season – has gone back to first club Cukaricki permanently from Manchester City.

The clubs drew 1–1 at Oakwell in December. Adam Phillips put the Reds in front with a controversial goal as Charlton thought the ball had gone out in the build-up. But Corey Blackett-Taylor, who has since moved to Derby, equalised in the second half.

This will be the 55th meeting of the two clubs, with Barnsley winning 18 and losing 21, with just one win in the last five.

The Reds have only won three games at the Valley, in three successive visits after 21 unsuccessful attempts.

They won in 3-1 in 2008 – thanks to a Jon Macken brace and a Darren Moore goal – 1-0 in 2012 with Tomas Cywka netting and in 2014 when Jean Yves M’voto and Tom Kennedy scored in a 2-1 victory.

They have since lost three straight games there in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

Barnsley will then visit Stevenage on Tuesday from 7.45pm.

The Hertfordshire club are eighth, three points and two places outside the top six. They looked set to compete for a second successive promotion before a winless run of seven games.

They have only won two of their last 13 games with the most recent three being draws. Over Easter they drew 0-0 at home to high-flying Bolton then drew 0-0 at Charlton on Monday.

They now visit Exeter on Saturday before hosting the Reds, in a game in hand for both clubs.

It will be Barnsley’s first ever match at Stevenage.

They and more than 1,000 fans travelled down in January but it was called off at 1.15pm with the referee claiming part of the pitch was unplayable due to frozen ground which Collins disputed.

The two teams had met for the first time ever at Oakwell on December 23.

The visitors took a fourth-minute lead through Luther Wildin-James and were on top for half an hour but Barnsley won it through John McAtee’s stunning lob and Herbie Kane’s deflected winner.

Stevenage manager Steve Evans has lost all three meetings with Barnsley, having also been beaten twice as Peterborough boss in 2018/19.

Striker Kane Hemmings, who spent the 2014/15 season at Oakwell, has three goals in 29 league games for Stevenage this season.