Analysis of Barnsley’s 2-1 FA Cup win at Bolton Wanderers.
PHILLIPS PROVIDES FIREWORKS
The fireworks in this November the fifth fixture were provided by Adam Phillips.
After Ricardo Santos’ early own goal, the Reds' second was a perfect combination of the 'route one' direct approach they have turned to in recent weeks and an intricate team goal that displayed superb individual skill.
It started with Liam Kitching - who was excellent on the day and is quietly becoming a very good defender for the Reds - spraying a fantastic crossfield pass from halfway to the right side of the Bolton box.
There it was met by Jordan Williams, another enjoying a good run of form, who also got an assist from an almost identical Kitching pass a week before against Forest Green. Instead of swinging in a cross, this time the right wing-back leapt into the air to meet the ball then cushioned it perfectly into the path of Phillips. The midfielder took one touch before firing a fantastic 20-yard strike into the top right corner for his first Barnsley goal.
Phillips’ start at Oakwell has been tough, signing on deadline day then ‘playing catch-up’, but this was the first real matchday glimpse of the training ground talent he has been showing. He had previously started in the front three or a deeper midfielder in a 3-4-3 but the right-sided midfield role in a 3-5-2 suits him well as he has more freedom to attack.
He could drop out of the side for the next league game, with Josh Benson coming back in, but proved in this win what he can bring to the Reds.
Fringe players must step up, such as Slobodan Tedic who had a reasonable game after replacing the injured James Norwood. Tedic is likely to start in the next few league games, as there are few other options, and will gain confidence from this performance in which he took part in some good moves and his physical presence helped force the first goal.
CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE TOWEL IN THE PUDDLE
‘The towel was put in a puddle’…
That was as far as Michael Duff went in explaining the bizarre first half incident in which referee Carl Boyeson confiscated the towel Tom Edwards had been using to wipe the ball in very wet conditions before his long throws.
Duff then stopped and said it was better if he made no further comment, so what exactly was going on on the touchline during another bad-tempered meeting of the teams remains unclear.
But it is obvious that Bolton, just like in the league 0-0 three weeks before, had complaints ranging from the towels to Barnsley’s alleged time-wasting while the Reds, again, felt many refereeing decisions favoured the home side.
Managers Michael Duff and Ian Evatt exchanged heated words after the final whistle.
Duff played down the incident after the game as two passionate managers disagreeing in the heat of the moment without crossing the line.
Duff has gained decent results in the first two meetings and will hope for a third when Evatt’s side visit Oakwell in the first game of 2023.
BACK-TO-BACK WINS WITH GOOD PERFORMANCES
This was a match between League One’s best two defences, and the sides were separated by just two places in the division.
Both made minimal changes to their last league 11 - Barnsley three and Bolton four - but it was the visitors who looked the most up for the cup, especially in the first half.
Once again the Reds looked much more dangerous in a 3-5-2 while they are starting to build some momentum with back-to-back wins after a poor run. The roughly 700 away fans can only have been encouraged.
While Bolton shaded possession and had a succession of set pieces in the first half, the Reds defended solidly and were far more dangerous going forward - scoring two and missing the two other big chances of the half.
Barnsley also came close to a third early in the second half but, in the final half an hour, mainly had to defend as Bolton were on top. Centre-back Robbie Cundy came on for striker Devante Cole to navigate a nervy seven minutes of added time in which the Reds played a back six.
But, although they scored late on and had a few half chances, the hosts never really looked like levelling.
FIRST WIN AT BOGEY GROUND
The last time Barnsley visited Bolton in the FA Cup - and won 2-1 - they lifted the trophy that season in 1912.
While that is nothing more than light-hearted statistical quirk at this point, history was made on Saturday at a bogey ground.
Barnsley finally won, at the tenth attempt, at the University of Bolton Stadium which had previously been called the Reebook and the Macron Stadium.
None of the players who finished the game for Barnsley had been born when that stadium was completed.
Barnsley’s only goal from open play in the 21st century at that ground in six visits was a strike by Craig Davies almost a decade ago to the day.
The last time they beat Bolton was also in the FA Cup in 1998, after which they had waited 14 games for a win.
Including a 1988 victory, Barnsley have won all four meetings in this competition.
REDS START CUP RUN
A victory at a bogey ground against a direct opponent in the top half of League One can only help confidence and momentum in the league.
The Reds are progressing in both the FA Cup and EFL Trophy which can work alongside the league push while giving squad players more game time.
The win means the players no longer get a weekend off at the end of the month but they are also now just one win, potentially, away from drawing a big Premier League club and receiving a major financial and morale boost.