A full preview of Barnsley's first leg visit to Bolton Wanderers in the League One play-off semi-final.
MADS ANDERSEN V DION CHARLES
Charles has 16 goals in League One this season, four in the cups and two for Northern Ireland.
He caused major problems for the Reds in the last meeting, getting behind the backline twice before winning and scoring the penalty which saw Andersen sent off, right.
Andersen is a doubt with a stomach muscle problem. He has made a few mistakes recently but Barnsley need him to prove when it counts that he is one of the best defenders at this level.
Either side of him, Liam Kitching and Bobby Thomas must finish their fine seasons with solid defensive performances while their runs out of defence and accurate long passes could prove crucial in tight games.
Charles could be partnered by Victor Adeboyejo, who netted nine goals in 97 Barnsley games across five years, then left Oakwell a year ago – having started in the Championship play-offs for them a year before.
He netted 13 goals for Burton Albion in the first half of the season before moving in January to Bolton for whom he has scored three goals. The other options up front are former Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday striker Elias Kachunga, veteran Cameron Jerome, Duff’s former Cheltenham man Dan Nlundulu and teenage Manchester United loanee Shola Shoretire. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, who has scored twice against Barnsley this season, is just returning from injury.
LUCA CONNELL V KYLE DEMPSEY
Connell was initially welcomed back to Bolton where he spent a decade in the academy then played in the first team during their 2018/19 Championship relegation season before joining Celtic.
But he was roundly booed for alleged time-wasting in the October 0-0 and again by the away end at Oakwell in January.
That first game was during a spell of being in and out of the 11 but he is now an ever-present when fit and a midfield linchpin.
He is likely to focus on containing the dangerous Dempsey who netted at Oakwell in January.
Bolton play a slightly different formation to Barnsley’s usual 3-5-2, using a 3-4-1-2 in which Dempsey is likely to play the more attacking role with probably Kieran Lee and MJ Williams behind him.
Bolton have had the second most possession in the division this season after Ipswich and made the fourth most passes.
The Reds made the fewest tackles in League One this season but, at their best, can overrun and overwhelm teams with their pressing and energy – with the midfield at the heart of that.
Barnsley finished the season with the most out-of-the-box goals in the top four divisions of English football, with Adam Phillips leading the way.
Herbie Kane is likely to complete the midfield three and has been on fine form of late.
DEVANTE COLE V JAMES TRAFFORD
Bolton goalkeeper Trafford kept 22 clean sheets in 45 League One games this season – with only Ipswich’s Christian Walton keeping more. The Manchester City loanee was rested on Sunday.
Cole, who lost in the 2017 League One play-offs with Fleetwood against his former club Bradford, has 16 goals in all competitions this season – his best ever tally. Since they both netted against Sheffield Wednesday in March, Cole and James Norwood have started five times up front with the Reds netting only twice in those games – both through defenders.
Their pressing skills may suit Bolton’s passing style but Max Watters and Slobodan Tedic are the other options up front.
Gethin Jones, who played 17 games on loan to Barnsley in 2016/17, has been a regular on the right side of Bolton’s back three but is now out for the season with a hamstring injury. He is their top assist-maker this season with six.
Ricardo Santos, who made the League One team of the season, returned from injury on Sunday.
JORDAN WILLIAMS V RANDELL WILLIAMS
The namesakes could come up against each other on Barnsley’s right flank.
Jordan’s performances have been mixed of late so it is vital that he rediscovers the levels that made him one of Barnsley’s better performers for most of the campaign.
Bolton’s left wing-back Randell Williams scored the winner against Barnsley for Wycombe Wanderers in 2018 then had spells at Exeter and Hull before joining Bolton in January.
Declan John – who played nine games on loan to Barnsley from Cardiff City in March and April 2015 – is Bolton’s other option on the left. On the other side, Nicky Cadden will likely come up against Liverpool’s highly-rated teenage loanee Conor Bradley who has excelled on loan this season.
THIS SEASON’S MEETINGS
Trotters 0, Reds 0 – October 15, 2022
The only point Barnsley collected during a difficult four-match run in October which brought three losses and no goals. This was a decent draw at a promotion rival but a poor and bad-tempered game. The hosts thought Barnsley were time-wasting and ex-Bolton man Luca Connell was booed loudly when walking slowly off after being substitute, while the Reds were frustrated with the referee.
Trotters 1, Reds 2 – November 5, 2022
Barnsley returned to Bolton just three weeks after the league draw for this FA Cup first round game and played well. It was an important victory at the start of the good run which Barnsley found after their October wobble. It was also Barnsley’s first win at the then University of Bolton Stadium at the tenth attempt. Ricardo Santos scored an own goal, under pressure from Slobodan Tedic, then the Reds netted arguably their goal of the season, so far. Jordan Williams cushioned a fine crossfield Liam Kitching pass into the path of Adam Phillips who took a touch and found the top right corner from outside the box. Jon Dadi Bodvarsson pulled one back in the 80th minute.
Reds 0, Trotters 3 – January 2, 2023
Mads Andersen misjudged a long ball in the tenth minute, which allowed Dion Charles to go through on goal, then brought the Bolton striker down in the box. It was a clear penalty but the red card issued by Sebastian Stockbridge was incorrect as the home captain made a genuine attempt to win the ball. This was during a run of five penalties given against Barnsley in six games. The Reds had started very poorly in the first ten minutes as they seemed to freeze, with Bolton creating good chances before they scored. The hosts had recovered well from Andersen’s dismissal until Robbie Cundy’s misplaced backpass allowed Jon Dadi Bodvarsson to make it 2-0 on 41 minutes. Kyle Dempsey added a late third after a fine move down the left. It ended Barnsley’s run of seven wins and a draw from eight league games and was followed by defeats to Derby in the FA Cup and at Charlton, which were followed by another superb run.
Marc Iles, Bolton News
How are Bolton looking going into the play-offs?
A few weeks ago my confidence was wavering.
There were lot of questions asked of the January signings, some of the performances were up and down and they had injuries in defence.
But they have finished the season on good form and the new signings have started to spark.
They are in a good place going into the game but play-offs are weird things – none of the last 46 games matter, it’s who shows up on the day.
What style of play should we expect?
Ian Evatt has always been known for possession-based football.
He likes to control the game in and out of possession.
The wing-backs are especially important, particularly Conor Bradley on the right who has been outstanding.
They tend to tire the opposition down and a lot of their goals come after 60 minutes.
Barnsley have been as good at anyone this season, in the two times they have been to Bolton, in limiting that.
Bolton weren’t known for great football in the Premier League but it’s a style that has got a lot of fans back.
The defence has been brilliant even though it has changed quite a lot because of injuries.
They like to play out from the back and take risks in possession, but it has worked.
How has Victor Adeboyejo done?
It’s been tough for him. He’s definitely a trier and he’s scored a few goals.
You can see where he fits in but, like a few of the January signings, it’s taken a bit of time to show what he can do.
Victor has probably settled quicker than some of the others.
They play high-energy football with a lot of pressing so players are always being rotated.