HOPE Akpan has called on City to develop a ruthless streak if they want to be among League One’s pace-setters this season.

The midfielder admitted Saturday’s 2-0 home loss to Barnsley was a lesson in what will be required.

But Akpan is confident that his new side can learn to toughen up once they get used to playing as a team.

He said: “Barnsley played to their strengths, get it to the big man up top, get it wide and get it in the box. They were doing that last year in the Championship.

“They are used to what they do and did it effectively at times.

“But it does help when you’ve played as a team for a period of time.

“Obviously, there are a lot of new players coming together here and we’ve done okay.

“But I think it shows we need some more work to gel together as a team to take advantage of different situations and opportunities on the pitch.”

Akpan was relegated from the Championship alongside Barnsley with Burton last season and is tipping the Tykes to be one of the major challengers.

But he also anticipates a wide-open promotion race – and insists City have the players to be involved.

“It’s a tough division and there’s no out-and-out favourites,” he added. “Barnsley were strong and will be up there.

“You’ve got to fight for it and believe in what you do. We’ve got good players here and can be successful if we get a system that suits us, really work at it and use the home pitch to our advantage.

“It’s two out of 12 teams who will probably thinking they can get up there. We’ve got to be one of those teams and do what it takes to scrap to be in there.

“We’ve got to be aggressive and ruthless. We lacked a bit of that in both sides of the game, defending and attacking, but with work we can do that and be better.”

Michael Collins felt City should have had a penalty when Sean Scannell was upended - five minutes before Barnsley scored their second goal.

The City head coach said: “As much as I thought we were a little bit patchy in how we played, that would have been a major turning point. But you have to take it on the chin.

“But I’m not getting too carried away. I was clear walking off the pitch in the areas we were short.

“Nothing surprised me. Barnsley are a very good team and there’s lots for us to work on and we will do.

“We’re all learning as a group. The players have to understand this is not any ordinary League One club.

“We’ve got a big fanbase and you’ve got to be able to handle occasions. There are not going to be many teams in this division who will play in front of those atmospheres.”

Akpan admitted the players were gutted to lose their first outing on home soil.

“The atmosphere was a great buzz – they were up for every tackle and header and you could feel the energy.

“It’s just disappointing we couldn’t use that and get the right result.

“Hopefully over the course of the season we can make Valley Parade a fortress because we need to if we’re going to do well.”