Barnsley: Young guns ready to stake a claim

Brad Abbott made his first appearance of the season against Fleetwood
Brad Abbott made his first appearance of the season against Fleetwood

Barnsley boss Lee Johnson insists some of the club’s youngsters are ready to stake a claim for a first team spot in the second half of the season.

The Reds manager finds himself fielding a depleted squad with a number of players leaving since the turn of the year.

In-form full-back Reece Wabara looks set to move on at the end of his short-term contract, with Wigan Athletic seeming a likely destination.

But Johnson is confident that teenager James Bree is capable of stepping up to fill the void should Wabara choose not to extend his stay at Oakwell.

“I think it’s probably 80/20 against us that Reece will stay because he’s had a decent offer from a club higher up in the division,” he revealed.

“We’ll have to get back to the drawing board and see where we go from there, but James Bree is ready to go now, there’s no doubting that.

“He’s been patiently waiting and probably due to Reece’s good form in the last four or five weeks James can find himself unlucky not to have been involved.”

Johnson suffered another big blow earlier this week, with former loan star Ben Pearson joining Championship side Preston.

The ex-Manchester United man spent the majority of 2015 with the Reds across two spells, impressing in the centre of the park.

Barnsley had hoped to bring him back for the rest of the season, but now have just one fit senior central midfielder in Conor Hourihane.

The Reds have been linked with experienced Australian international Neil Kilkenny, who will now find himself even further down the pecking order at Preston with Pearson’s arrival.

Academy graduate Brad Abbott, 21, was drafted in for his first appearance of the season on Saturday against Fleetwood, and Johnson sees no reason why he can’t continue in the starting XI.

“I thought Brad was fantastic to come in when he’s only really been training with the first team for four weeks properly,” he added.

“We thought this situation might arise and I’ve got nothing but praise for him.

“He took his opportunity and worked very hard. We contemplated a couple of other options but we felt that he deserved his opportunity and I think he did really well given the circumstances.

“To take a big player like Ben Pearson out of our team, who has been influential in recent times, and then for Brad to come in and play like he did I’m really pleased for him, and he’s put himself in with a chance.”

Meanwhile, Barnsley’s trip to Bury, which was postponed on Boxing Day due to flooding, has been rearranged for Tuesday 23 February.