Analysis of Barnsley's 2-0 defeat to Peterborough United on the final day of the league season. The visitors netted in the sixth and 76th minutes to join the Reds in the play-offs.
STRONG LEAGUE SEASON FINISHES POORLY
Barnsley, after a frustrating final day loss, finished fourth in League One on 86 points, ten clear in the top six and 12 off the top two.
The only season, since three points for a win was introduced in 1981, in which the Reds have collected more points was 2018/19 when they finished second in League One with 91 having had far less disruption than in the last year. Their 16 home wins is the joint most since promotion from Division Four in 1967/68.
They won the same amount of league games as in that last promotion campaign, 26, which is the most since 1954/55.
In the last four decades, a tally of 86 would have won the third division on seven occasions and secured second place on 19 others.
Since late October, Barnsley are top of the form table with 65 points from 31 games.
But they are only 12th in the form table over the last ten games, which have brought four losses, with the three other play-off sides in the top five.
It remains to be seen whether the last few weeks are just a minor blip with the play-offs already secured or a crucial loss of form going into the semi-finals.
The staff and players will work to make sure it is the former over the next week before visiting Bolton on Saturday.
REDS LACK EDGE IN GAME THEY DID NOT HAVE TO WIN
A game live on Sky against a team with everything to play for was a good dress rehearsal for the play-offs.
But, subconsciously, the home players knew there were bigger matches to come and they had done their job on the league.
Michael Duff rued a lack of intensity and concentration which he put down to not having as much to play for as Peterborough who secured sixth place with this win.
As unpalatable as it may be for some fans, players are naturally going to lack a slight edge in a game that just doesn’t mean as much as the next fixtures. There is also the ongoing problem that the Reds cannot come from behind - now going 18 months without an equaliser at Oakwell.
Duff made four changes to the side that drew 4-4 at MK Dons eight days earlier as Robbie Cundy, Josh Benson, Luke Thomas, Slobodan Tedic dropped to the bench. Adam Phillips, Luca Connell, Devante Cole and Barry Cotter came in.
It was as close to full strength as he could get.
Barnsley had a couple of 20-minute spells of dominance, one after falling 1-0 down and then another early in the second half.
But they only created a couple of clear chances and could not take them.
They have now conceded nine goals in three games, which have each seen a right-wing corner headed in at the near post. Barnsley had been excellent defending set pieces all season but will have to work on that front post weakness in training this week.
If the Posh and the Reds meet in the Wembley final later this month, Barnsley are likely to be a very different prospect but they must improve significantly to get there.
ENTERTAINING FULL COTTER DEBUT
Barry Cotter made his full debut for Barnsley, playing at right-wing-back.
The Irishman had made four substitute appearances since joining in January from Shamrock Rovers.
He caught the eye with some fine runs forward, showing good pace and trickery to beat several men. He will have to tighten up defensively, as the first goal came down his side, but he certainly seems to have the attributes to make an impact on the wings.
That will probably be off the bench if Mads Andersen is fit for the play-offs.
Barnsley’s defence again looked vulnerable with captain Andersen still out. Stand-in skipper Liam Kitching will have been disappointed with both goals while Jordan Williams - moved into the back three - lost the ball several times in dangerous areas.
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny was at the game, with Reds midfielder Luca Connell surely on his radar. He would have been more impressed by Peterborough midfielder Jack Taylor - who scored a third goal in his last three meetings with the Reds - although Connell got a good run-out following illness and created chances with his set pieces.
Herbie Kane’s passing was not of the same standard as previous matches while Adam Phillips lacked some of his unusual energy. Strikers Cole, on his 100th Barnsley game, and James Norwood - who was taken off at half-time for being ‘leggy’ and ‘flat’ according to Duff - almost took the ball off Peterborough, as they passed out from the back, but were often just slightly too late to win the ball.
Max Watters came on at the break, the first of a series of substitutes who could not change the game.
REDS ANGRY WITH OFFICIALS AGAIN
When James Norwood took the ball off the toes of Will Norris in the tenth minute and was tripped by the goalkeeper, referee Scott Oldham waved away the protests with Duff livid on the sidelines.
The Reds went a full league season without a penalty at home which their head coach said should be impossible.
They have been on the wrong side of a series of refereeing decisions m and will hope that luck changes in the play-offs.
Barnsley also felt they should have had a penalty for a pull on Cotter by Taylor, that there was an offside for Peterborough’s opener and Norwood was not offside when he lashed in at 1-0 only for the flag to go up. All those decisions looked marginal but certainly the Norwood penalty was a mistake and, coupled with a controversial red card for Derby’s Curtis Davies in their loss at Sheffield Wednesday, the Posh had some luck with officials on Sunday.
PERSPECTIVE NEEDED AFTER GOOD YEAR
This match was exactly a year since Barnsley finished their previous season with a 4-0 defeat at West Bromwich Albion. With Martin Devaney caretaker manager and a team of mainly under 23s players, they were outclassed as usual in a miserable campaign which yielded six wins, 30 points and 33 goals. No one was predicting promotion at that point, even the usual optimists - the rebuild job seemed too big and the problems too deep.
Kitching was the only player to start that match and this Posh game.
Barnsley were then a laughing stock but are now three games from righting that wrong at the first attempt.
This was another 2-0 loss to Peterborough, who won by the same scoreline on Easter Monday last year in one of the worst performances of that sad season.
Chief executive Khaled El-Ahmad stormed out of the directors box during that last match but this time he proudly clapped the team and staff during the post-match lap of honour.
At the start of the season, the toxicity caused by relegation and off-field issues was still in the air at Oakwell and – despite improving performances – the apathy did not lift until around February when they were on their way to nine straight wins there, the best run in more than a century. The positive reaction after Sunday’s defeat, despite the disappointment of losing, showed there is far more unity at the club now.