Barnsley boss, Valerien Ismael, is using Derby County as inspiration as he looks to overturn a 1-0 deficit in the play-off semi-final with Swansea City.
Andre Ayew struck with a superb curling finish on 39 minutes last night at Oakwell, leaving 4,500 Barnsley supporters stunned and Swansea in control after the first leg of the tie.
Ismael, though, was bullish with the fact that the contest is very much alive at the halfway stage, referencing Derby’s 2019 epic with Leeds United that had taken a similar path after Kemar Roofe’s goal secured a 1-0 first leg win for the Yorkshire side.
Back at Elland Road, Derby put in a stunning second-half display to win 4-2, progressing to Wembley.
Ismael stated in his post-match press conference: “This is a play-off and anything can happen. Two years ago, Leeds won 1-0 at Derby and everyone thought that Leeds would go through from the semi-final. In the end, Derby won.
“It’s the same feeling for us. It’s clear that we have nothing to lose and that there’s big pressure on Swansea.
“We will fight like we did in the second-half. We want to start the game like that and keep the tie alive. That will give us a chance, we want to make it happen on Saturday.”
The task at hand on Saturday is made more difficult by the return of Swansea supporters at the Liberty Stadium, which is an advantage Barnsley had last night.
4,500 fans flocked through the turnstiles for the first time in 436 days, generating a ferocious atmosphere over an hour before kick-off.
Naturally, Ismael’s impact at Barnsley and success at dragging them into the play-off picture hasn’t gone unnoticed, with fans giving him the warmest of welcomes pre-match.
Ismael commented: “It was an amazing atmosphere. 4,500 felt like 30,000, it was very loud. It was a big reward for everyone to have that feeling to finish the season at Oakwell with such an atmosphere.”
Despite that, the 45-year-old felt that the emotion of having fans back impacted his side’s performance in the opening exchanges, underlining that a lot of mistakes were made.
He continued: “I think in the first 20-25 minutes we felt the atmosphere because we didn’t play well in transition. There were a lot of mistakes due to the emotion, which I can understand.
“The second-half was much better, we put the emotion on the side and we were just focused on our game plan. We had a massive impact on the game and we have to score.
“We should score with Britt (Callum Brittain), with Cauley and with Carlton. That, though, has given us a good feeling for the second leg, it is only half time.”
Freddie Woodman’s superb double save denied Carlton Morris and Callum Brittain shortly after the break, with the Swansea goalkeeper then down well to keep out Cauley Woodrow’s free kick.
Morris’ flicked effort then struck the bar with virtually the last kick of the first leg, with Woodman, Marc Guehi and Ben Cabango forced to batten down the hatches during the second-half.
The return leg takes place in Swansea on Saturday evening.