Barnsley: Sunderland the team to catch and promotion pressure is all on them
Barnsley assistant head coach Dale Tonge believes the pressure is now all on Sunderland as the League One promotion race hots up.
The Tykes’ chances of finishing in the top two are now out of their hands after they were leapfrogged by the Black Cats.
The Reds were beaten at Burton, a result which ended a 20-game unbeaten league run, while Albion also proved to be party-poopers by holding Sunderland in midweek.
But the draw was enough for Jack Ross’ side to jump into second spot, moving one point above Barnsley with a game in hand still.
And Tonge feels Sunderland, because of the size of the club they are, have it all to lose as they aim to secure an immediate return to the Championship.
“They are in front of us so it’s out of our hands, we understand that,” he said.
“A lot of people are talking about the pressure and I think, yes there was pressure on us because we had two massive clubs behind us and one is now above us, so that can be another catalyst.
“The pressure is off, let’s just go and perform, play our game and attack these last five games.
“We understand it is a freak season in terms of League One, potentially 90 points might not get you up this year.
“We understand that, but at the same time, we are confident that if we win all our games we have got a very, very good opportunity.
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“The play-offs are not something we are focusing on, we want automatic.”
Barnsley’s next assignment comes in the form of Fleetwood at Oakwell, where they are unbeaten this season.
The Cod Army boast several dangerous attacking players, including prolific strikers Paddy Madden and Ched Evans.
Tonge knows Barnsley’s defence will need to be at their best to keep those two at bay.
“We understand those two players are very good for the level they are playing at and should probably be playing higher,” he said.
“But they are now at a club that is looking to progress under a new manager."
Fleetwood are only one of a few teams who do not have anything to play for in an exciting league, but a mid-table position is a decent return in Joey Barton’s first season as a manager.
“He has proven, not that he needed to because he was a big name in football anyway, his worth and his team play good football and they are doing really well in the league,” Tonge said.
“You can see with the backing they are going to get that they are going to be pushing next season.”