Barnsley caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom has hailed Adam Hammill as a catalyst in his side’s stunning run of form in 2016.
Just a single defeat since the start of the year has seen the Reds rise from relegation candidates to play-off contenders.
Wing wizard Hammill is back in contention for a starting spot for this afternoon’s visit of fellow top six hopefuls Southend United after serving a three-match suspension.
And Heckingbottom has heaped praise on the impact the 28-year-old has had since rejoining in November for his second spell at Oakwell.
“There’s no doubt Adam was a catalyst,” said the caretaker chief, who lost out to Wigan’s Gary Caldwell for the SkyBet League Manager of the Month award.
“The way he played and the way the fans took to him again, he gave us that bit of a spark and he was a leader for us.
“He probably didn’t realise as much but people did look to him - not just the players but the fans as well - and he delivered which was fantastic.
“That catalyst has kicked everyone else on now which is what we wanted. That’s down to Adam and the players, they’ve taken that on board and taken confidence from results, and now we’ve got a team of leaders out there which is great.”
Hammill will have a tough task ousting in-form wide men Harry Chapman and Lloyd Isgrove for a place in the starting eleven this afternoon. Middlesbrough loanee Chapman scored on his first start for the club in the 3-1 victory over Walsall last weekend, which saw the Reds sneak into the play-off places for the first time.
Star striker Sam Winnall could also return to the fold after missing out against the Saddlers with an ankle injury.
Southend lost 1-0 to Chesterfield last time out and bring a mixed bag of results to Oakwell with four wins, two draws and six defeats this year.
“Their results have been indifferent of late, a bit inconsistent. We have to prepare that they’re going to come here and give us a tough game,” Heckingbottom warned.