Neill Collins ‘exceptionally proud’ after Barnsley win at play-off rivals Oxford

By Sports Desk January 23, 2024

Barnsley head coach Neill Collins said he was “exceptionally proud” of his team after a 1-0 win over play-off rivals Oxford in atrocious conditions at the Kassam Stadium.

The winner came from a Sam Long own goal in the 29th minute when Long and Devante Cole both challenged for a wicked right-wing cross from Adam Phillips.

Oxford almost equalised six minutes from time when Cameron Brannagan’s 20-yard drive smashed against the bar.

Collins said: “I’m exceptionally proud of the team, probably as proud of the team as I’ve been since I’ve been Barnsley manager.

“I’m so proud of the togetherness of the team.

“They were terrible conditions but I thought we handled them well in the second half when the wind was against us. That’s something we haven’t done well at times but we did tonight.

“And apart from the shot that hit the crossbar, I thought we were comfortable, to be honest.

“In the first half we were excellent and in the second half we were very professional.

“It was a well-earned three points.

“It was one of those nights when we needed every member of the squad who started or came on to play their part.

“Yes, it’s nice to beat another team near the top, and Oxford have been in the top six all season.

“But if we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve we’re going to have to beat the top teams along the way.”

Fifth-placed Barnsley are now just four points off leaders Portsmouth with a game in hand in a congested pack at the top of Sky Bet League One.

Oxford boss Des Buckingham called it “a frustrating evening”.

His mood was not helped by losing Long to a head wound at the end of the first half, with the defender having only just returned to the team after nearly three months out injured..

“It was a horrible night for football and the game was decided by fine margins,” he said.

“They got the goal from a set-piece, but we had two very good opportunities in the first half.

“Then we obviously had Cam’s shot against the bar, and also in the second half we twice got into really good positions and just maybe needed better decision-making.

“Sam Long split his head from an elbow – he’s got a deep gash in his head so he’ll maybe be out for a couple of weeks.

“We’ve got some players coming back but we have 19 games to go and we’re after two more forwards to fire us forward for the second half of the season.

“It is disappointing losing to another team near the top but we spoke before the game and said that, whatever the result tonight, there will still be a long way to go, and there’ll be a lot of ups and downs and twists and turns.

“But we have two wonderful games coming up now to try to pick up points, against Bristol Rovers and Portsmouth.”

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