Barnsley 0 Preston 0: Paul Heckingbottom happy with a point a Reds start again after transfer-window ins and outs

Ryan Kent gave another barnstorming performance for Barnsley. 
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Ryan Kent gave another barnstorming performance for Barnsley. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom declared himself satisfied with a point after Saturday’s goalless stalemate against Roses rivals - and fellow play-off chasers - Preston.

It was far from an Oakwell classic, but both sides did create chances and could have won the game.

The hosts saw Tom Bradshaw’s second-half effort cleared off the line, while ‘keeper Adam Davies produced a world class save to keep out Jordan Hugill’s goal-bound header in stoppage time.

Heckingbottom said: “I’d never turn down a point, never ever.

“This was a game where if one side had nicked a winner, though, I’d still have been thinking the same things.

“I’m thinking about where we can improve, what we can do, because I knew before the game started that my priority is how we make this team better with all the new players.

“The energy and the effort was there, but it’s clear we’ve got lots of work to do to get back to the levels we were at before.”

Generally Heckingbottom was pleased with the performance against a team who are also in the play-off mix.

The boss added: “I thought we coped with what Preston threw at us.

“They picked a big, physical side and were direct in their play, and they also went with a few more defence-minded players than they have in recent games.

“I thought we coped with that well, but flip that, and we probably didn’t do enough to win the game.”

MARLEY FOCUSED ON REDS

Front-man Marley Watkins will be giving his all to Barnsley after seeing his Premier League dream evaporate - for now.

The 26-year-old - signed in summer, 2015, from Inverness - has impressed hugely this term and was being linked with a Premier League move in January.

He slapped in a transfer request, but no move materialised and now he’s right back in the fold, with the blessing of Paul Heckingbottom.

Asked about the Watkins situation, the Reds boss said: “Marley put in a transfer request because he wanted to play in the Premier League and he thought this was his chance.

“But it’s not happened, so he knows now that if he does want to play in the Premier League in the future, he has to go out and perform well enough so a club might come and get him in the summer.

“That’s his goal and his aim, and to be honest I can’t think of any motivation better than that for a footballer.

“That is the motivation you should have - it’s healthy for a footballer to want to play at the highest level they can get to.

“I’d gladly help any one of my players get into the Premier League - I’ve no problem with that.”

HECKINGBOTTOM STARTING AGAIN

Paul Heckingbottom admitted to the Star after the game that he felt as though this season is starting again, and it’s little wonder.

He also told us how much of a relief it was when the window finally slammed shut last Tuesday night.

Of course it must have been tough for the Reds’ boss. In the run-up to January he will have had to brace himself for departures - a whole clutch of players were being linked with Premier League and rival Championship clubs.

However, despite losing of Sam Winnall, Conor Hourihane and James Bree, Barnsley still have a more than capable squad which can maintain its push for what would be a dream spot in the Championship play-offs.

The Reds have replaced well. Gethin Jones, Callum Elder, Matty James, Alex Mowatt and Ryan Hedges are all high-quality players who ought to be able to do a solid job at second tier level.

The Reds are still only four points shy of the sixth-placed Owls, with 16 games left, so why can’t their excellent campaign maintain its terrific momentum between now and May?