Barnsley boss Lee Johnson has urged his side to stay calm and focused ahead of tonight’s crucial clash against Fleetwood Town.
The Reds are just 90 minutes away from a memorable trip to Wembley as they travel to the Fylde coast for the second leg of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area final.
Hot prospect Ashley Fletcher enjoyed a dream debut in the first encounter at Oakwell, bagging the equaliser in a hard fought draw which leaves the tie finely poised at 1-1.
Johnson’s men are in fine form, but the manager is keen to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.
“You’ve got to recognise the magnitude of the game for everybody. I think the players do, and it’s my job to keep everybody calm even though I’m excited myself,” he stressed.
“It’s not easy trying to keep everybody switched on and focused but we’ll go into it with a plan.
“The key is that the players live in the moment. If you start dreaming too early or you start thinking that you’ve arrived when you haven’t then you can come unstuck.
“But it’s not just about winning this game because nobody wants to go to Wembley and lose.
“So for me there won’t be ridiculous celebrating if we did manage to win because I’ve been to Wembley and lost in a big final, and trust me it hurts.”
A terrific turnaround in form has seen the Reds rocket up the Skybet League One table, and they remain unbeaten in 2016 having scored 14 times in six matches.
Red-hot striker Sam Winnall, who was the subject of a £300,000 bid from Leeds in the transfer window, has bagged half of the team’s goals this year and is deservedly up for January’s Player of the Month award.
This remarkable run has also led to Johnson being nominated for Manager of the Month for the second time in succession, and the Barnsley boss wants to take his side’s newfound confidence into tonight’s cup clash.
“Everybody is absolutely buzzing,” he added. “We want to go there and make sure we continue our good form and if we do we’ll create chances.
“If we stick the ball in the back of the net like we know we can at the moment and stay solid we have got a chance.
“They might be slight favourites because they’ve got home territory, but I think our fans will go there and make it like a home game for us and that’s all I ask.”
Full-back Aidan White and wing wizard Adam Hammill are both injury doubts, with Johnson prepared to give them as long as possible to recover before making a late decision about their availability.
Tenacious midfielder Josh Scowen is pushing for a start after making three substitute appearances having returned from a three-month injury lay-off.
And the 22-year-old is desperate to get to Wembley to give something back to the fans.
“It’s everyone’s dream to go and play at Wembley,” he said. “We’ve got a massive chance to get there so we’ll be giving it everything to try and get the win.”
“The fans deserve it, they’ve stuck with us through the worst time this season so it will be nice for them to get a day out at Wembley.”