Barnsley boss Lee Johnson has stressed his players need to deliver to keep their Wembley dreams alive.
The Reds have a welcome a distraction from their frustrating League One campaign tomorrow as they take on Wigan Athletic in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Northern Area semi-final.
And Johnson, whose side have lost nine of their last 11 games - but who have produced some encouraging performances recently, most notably last weekend against Sheffield United – is backing his team to book their place in the Northern Area finals in January (w/c 11 and 25 January).
“We can go there and give it our all,” said Johnson, who side would play either Morecambe or Fleetwood in the next round if they do win.
“It’s a great game for us, we can go there and play with freedom.
“Out last four or five performances have shown me the players are fighting for the shirt.
“The morale is still good and we’re still competing. People know it’s a transition phase at this club.”
Swindon Town striker Michael Smith is cup-tied for this weekend’s clash at the DW Stadium, while Burnley loan defender Kevin Long is still suspended. Centre-back Long was sent off in his only his second game for the club and still has two matches to serve from a three-match ban.
Central midfielder Josh Scowen is also still out, probably for at least another 6-8 weeks with his medial knee ligament injury.
“The mindset is going and win the game, it’s a big game for us,” added Johnson, who knows another win in the JPT puts his side with touching distance of a mouth-watering Wembley final on Sunday 3 April.
“We want to keep the Wembley dream alive and give the fans a good Wembley day out. If we win this game there’s a real possibility of it.
“The players are really looking forward to it. It’s up to the players to deliver those individual qualities and performances to keep that dream alive.”
Latics boss Gary Caldwell, whose side are fifth in League One and who have lost just two of their last 16 matches, has stressed his side are also serious about chasing JPT silverware: “This is a competition we are taking seriously and we know now that if we were to get through this match, then Wembley is just one two legged tie away,” Caldwell said.
“That’s a great incentive because to play in a Wembley final is always a special moment for any player or supporter,” said Caldwell.