Barnsley caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom insists he side will not sit back and defend their 3-0 lead against Walsall on Thursday when they look to book a return trip to Wembley in the Sky Bet League One play-off final.
Barnsley stand on the threshold of a second Wembley appearance in as many months after Jason Demetriou’s own goal on the stroke of half-time and Sam Winnall’s double in the space of two second-half minutes in the semi-final first leg at Oakwell.
When asked how his side would approach the return leg with such a big advantage, Heckingbottom said: “Exactly the same – go and win it.
“How do you set your team up to defend a 3-0 lead? You don’t do you? Just go and win the game and that’s it.
“We have a way of playing that we play to in every game. We just try and focus on certain aspects of our performance dependent on the opposition.
“That’s all we do. We know how we play. We can adapt to different styles thrown at us so we’ll approach the game in the same way and demand the same things and hopefully get the same result.”
Winnall took his tally for the season to 24 to boost Heckingbottom’s hopes of landing the job permanently at the end of the season after he stepped in on an interim basis following Lee Johnson’s departure to Bristol City in February.
“He did well. He’s coming into his goalscoring form again similar to what he had in January when he picked up a player of the month (award),” added Heckingbottom, who withdrew his talisman striker midway through the second half.
“When he scores we generally win games. Sam had given us everything like he always does, so 65 minutes you could see he was flagging.
“He put us in a great position so he can save those minutes in his legs because they might be vital on Thursday.”
Walsall were not without chances and will rue glaring misses from striker Tom Bradshaw and substitute Sam Mantom in either half, which left interim head coach Jon Whitney clinging to his chance of being handed the role on a permanent basis.
“I’m not going to go in and rip heads off, but we owe the fans something on Thursday now,” Whitney said.
“If the players come out with their heads down, that’s not what we want. Get your heads up and stick your chest out.”
The Saddlers, top of the table at Christmas, missed out on automatic promotion on the last day by a point, despite thrashing Port Vale 5-0 on the last day of the regular season.
“What a contrast to Port Vale,” Whitney added. “We’ve just been smacked in the teeth by Barnsley.
“But we can either hide away now and give up for the summer, or we can come and show our fans and you guys a little bit of pride on Thursday because I will tell them if they’re not ready, they won’t play in my team.”