THE prospect of Barnsley featuring in a Wembley cup final and figuring in the race for the Sky Bet League One play-offs would have seemed laughable to all but their most optimistic fan in the autumn.

A run of seven straight league defeats had sent Lee Johnson’s side tumbling into the relegation zone, while an FA Cup defeat to non-league Altrincham rubbed salt in the wounds.

So when lowly York City took the lead at Oakwell three days later in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, things were looking extremely bleak.

But despite not being fully fit, new signing Adam Hammill stepped up to set up the equaliser and net the decisive goal in a 2-1 win.

The Tykes have not looked back since, winning 15 of their last 23 league games to steadily climb to the fringes of the top six.

Even losing Johnson to Bristol City and reaching Wembley, has not dented their momentum, with Paul Heckingbottom stepping up as caretaker manager.

He said: “I think the lads have given everything.

“It might be in their mind subconsciously as the tension and everything builds up, but every game between now and the end of the season is huge.

“We’re chasing a massive prize –or two massive prizes should I say – but you can’t question the commitment or the work rate of the players.”

He added: “It’s about enjoying the occasion and that’s the message we need to get across to the players every game and they have to embrace the pressure and the tension.

“But unlike a play-off final, there is not nearly as much at stake, but anything we’ve tried to do with the players has been about enjoying it.”