Analysis of last night's penalty shoot-out loss at League One Bolton Wanderers in the EFL Cup after a 0-0 draw.
REDS LEAVE CUP 'IMMEDIATELY BY NEAREST EXIT' BEFORE FIRE ALARM
‘Please leave immediately by the nearest exit’ was the loudspeaker announcement that blasted out through the University of Bolton Stadium and interrupted Markus Schopp’s post-match press conference that had only just begun.
It was an apparent fire alarm that caused a full evacuation of the ground, but those words had already been heeded by Schopp and his team who crashed out of the EFL Cup in the first round against League One Bolton on Tuesday.
Schopp seemed relieved that he was spared being asked more questions about a performance and result that clearly frustrated him after he made eight changes to the side that drew 1-1 in an encouraging Championship opener at Cardiff City on Saturday.
It was a disappointing performance, especially in the second half, but should not be the cause of huge panic.
Although the Reds should want to win every game and the cup is an opportunity to face Premier League sides in lucrative and high-profile games, the priority is clearly the Championship and good results in the home games against Coventry tomorrow and Luton on Tuesday will erase the memories of Bolton.
MUCH-CHANGED TEAM DENIED BY LINESMAN AND MISSED CHANCES
Whereas the team at Cardiff on Saturday was broadly similar to last season’s starting 11, this was a side full of players making debuts or one of their first starts in 2021 while many of them had never played with the man alongside them in a competitive game.
Barnsley’s third oldest starter was 23-year-old Victor Adeboyejo who was one of the players guilty of missing simple chances as the team displayed a chronic lack of good decision-making with their shooting and passing after getting into good attacking positions.
‘Is this a library?’ chanted the noisy Barnsley fans – who almost outnumbered the home crowd – and the University of Bolton Stadium will have been a place of learning for this young Reds team.
They played well in the first half, but were wasteful while Cauley Woodrow had what would have been his 50th goal wrongly ruled out for offside in the third minute. Liam Gordon was playing the Reds skipper onside as he tapped in, which would have changed the complexion of the game. But the Reds also had themselves to blame as the disallowed goal came after Adeboyejo missed one of two big chances, as did Clarke Oduor.
They lost their way badly after the break, especially after Schopp took off first team regulars Woodrow and Callum Styles on the hour-mark. Bolton, who made six changes themselves but had experience such as Kieran Lee in midfield and strikers Eoin Doyle and Nathan Delfouneso, played a more aggressive direct style after the break which saw them take control then gain what they will feel was a deserved victory.
COLE SHOULD BE CHEERED UP BY FANS SINGING HIS NAME BEFORE AND AFTER PENALTY MISS
By the time the match was decided on penalties, Barnsley had six players on the pitch who had never scored for them.
But it was the man who had the most Reds goals of those 11 – albeit in a loan spell seven years ago in League One – who was the only one to miss.
Devante Cole’s penalty was not terrible but it was the classic ‘nice height for a goalkeeper’ and Joel Dixon sprang to his left to make a good stop.
It was not an ideal start for the striker who has returned to Oakwell this summer on a three-year deal, but he should not be too disheartened and instead cheered by the away end constantly singing his name throughout the second half and after the penalty miss.
MILLER FULL DEBUT NEARLY 1,000 DAYS AFTER SIGNING
George Miller had waited 922 days to make his full debut for Barnsley after signing in January 2019 then being loaned out to Bradford and Scunthorpe while coming off the bench eight times for the Reds for a total of 108 minutes.
He signed as a striker but played at right wing-back against his hometown club Bolton.
Miller started brilliantly, swinging in a fine cross in the third minute which should have been headed in by Adeboyejo, and embarking on several other good runs down the right while beating players. He faded slightly but also crossed for a Cole chance in the second half, which he finished up front as he suffered with cramp towards the end of his first appearance since January and first start in almost 18 months.
HELIK'S QUALITY SHINES THROUGH
Michal Helik looked a cut above everyone around him as you would expect from an international footballer and Player of the Year for a Championship play-off team.
He seemed as though he was trying to drag his side forward, charging up the pitch from centre-back, and gleefully smashed in a penalty.
That performance, and his display at Cardiff, showed just how important it is for the Reds to keep hold of Helik in this window.
Jasper Moon also looked good on his second professional start, defending well and starting some attacks with decent tackles and passes as he returned to centre-back after coming off the bench in midfield on Saturday. Aapo Halme was probably the least controlled of the three centre-backs, as he looks less comfortable on the left of the back three – where his lack of pace was at times exposed by ex-Reds Gethin Jones and Lloyd Isgrove – than his usual position in the middle.