Barnsley: Keeper aims to clean up for the Tykes

Six home wins in the locker, now able to win on the road and considerably nearer the Championship's play-offs than its relegation zone; all is well as Barnsley's 2010 draws to a close.

Integral to that success has been shot-stopper Luke Steele but further personal goals lie on the goalkeeper's mind, with topping last season's 12 clean sheets very much the aim.

Now in his third season at Oakwell, Steele has risen to become the club's undisputed number one and continued fine displays between the sticks have brought lavish praise from manager Mark Robins of late.

A hat-trick of recent clean sheets had this season's tally up to six heading into yesterday's match at Millwall, but that remains half the number kept last year, and it's a number Steele wants to beat.

The 26-year-old knows three points from each league game is all that matters – by whatever scoreline – but the Peterborough-born ace also admits to keeping a keen track on how many goals he and his side have conceded.

A new corner has been turned of late, with Steele and his Reds having not conceded in the last three games heading into yesterday's clash in London, and if their number one has his way, that trend will continue.

Admitting clean sheets are very much a priority, Steele told Yorkshire Sport: "I usually just try and improve on the last season. I've written

it down somewhere, and I think it was 12 last season.

"Compared to last season, I also want to concede less goals, and it hasn't been something we have got around to doing yet this season.

"I would have liked a few more (clean sheets) but it's just circumstances and the odd goal here and there obviously spoils it.

"It's not the end of the world if we concede but I'd love to get a few

on the trot and get some momentum going in terms of keeping some clean sheets."

The signs are that is beginning to happen, Barnsley shutting out Portsmouth, Watford and Sheffield United in recent weeks with Steele undefeated in more than four hours of football heading into yesterday's match at the New Den.

And Steele says clean sheets or otherwise, this season he has been thoroughly pleased with his progress and performances.

The 6ft 2in star was signed from West Brom back in May 2008 and feels he is now playing some of his best football in a Barnsley shirt.

"I think lately I have been playing a lot better," he said.

"Since the start of the season I have been trying to pick up and find some form and I'm happy with myself.

"If I can help us win points making saves like the one against Portsmouth the other Saturday, at the end of the game when it was 1-0, then great.

"That save was important and I want to keep on doing that as I want to win the team as many points as possible and push us up the table. But I'm pretty pleased with myself at the moment to be fair."

And why shouldn't he be? The 26-year-old has waited his turn at Barnsley, stuck behind German keeper Heinz Muller on his arrival but now every inch the Reds' first choice.

The former Manchester United reserve has made stellar progress at Oakwell, as have Barnsley as a whole, and Steele feels his side have every right to be dreaming of the play-offs.

The custodian knows, first things first, the Reds must seal a comfortable mid-table berth. But, on current form, he sees no reason why they cannot push for a top-six spot in the first half of the new


"We are always looking to improve each year and we always look as high as we can," he said.

"This year we don't want to be looking down towards the end of the season, we want to be looking up and I think so far we've done that.

"We had a few dodgy results and we hadn't been consistent enough but at the moment we are definitely looking up and working out how far off the play-offs are."

That gap was just four points heading into yesterday's round of fixtures with home clashes against Burnley and Coventry plus trips to Swansea and Nottingham Forest about to come thick and fast over the festive period.

Barnsley remain a whopping 33-1 to win promotion and just 7-1 to go down but, if Steele has his way, those odds might be changing somewhat in the not-too-distant future.

"The play-offs are a realistic target and all the lads are quietly confident of getting where we want to be," said Steele.

"We're not going to go shouting around saying we are going to get promoted but we are quietly confident of going around our business and just trying to take each game as it comes.

"We know how in this league you can get beaten by anybody and we can beat anybody as well."

Kemar Roofe.

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