Michael Duff hailed an ‘excellent’ Barnsley performance as they won 1-0 at home to Bolton Wanderers to reach the League One play-off final against Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley.
Liam Kitching netted the only goal midway through the first half to secure a 2-1 aggregate win.
Head coach Duff told the Chronicle: “I thought we were excellent. It was tight but it was always going to be. It was never going be 4-0. Over the two games I think we shaded it. I thought we were the better team at their place and probably just shaded it today. The team gave us everything we asked them to. They were compact, resolute, waited for triggers then pressed really well. We knew we would have to suffer without the ball, we didn’t want more of the ball because we play on the front foot.
“I said to the players at half time ‘you are 45 minutes from playing at Wembley in front of 80 or 90 thousand.’ Don’t let it pass you by. It doesn’t come about very often. Stick together, show courage and discipline. They did all that. I am delighted.”
Scorer Kitching told the Chronicle: “I saw it just come out to Luca (Connell). and I thought ‘with his quality he’s going to whip it straight in here.’ Luckily I jumped, it hit me and it went in so off I went.”
Bolton manager Ian Evatt was angry with the referee for the free-kick which led to the Barnsley goal, after it was cleared then the ball went into the Reds half before being crossed in.
Duff said: “I know Ian was frustrated. It was our first free-kick of the game and it was 24 minutes in. I would agree it might not have been a free-kick but we could have had about eight before. It’s been put in the box, been recycled, there have been three or four passes then it’s put in the box again. I understand it’s frustrating but I don’t think you can put it on the referee today.”
Bolton put Barnsley under pressure after the break but were restricted to very few chances.
“We have been hard to beat all season. You are never going to be in control all the way through. We kept them at arm’s length really well. Bobby (Thomas) made a brilliant block and that was probably the most pleasing part of the night. Certain people have done certain jobs to get him to make that block.”
A crowd of 16,274 watched the game. Duff said: “Our fans definitely turned up. I imagine the town will be bouncing. They are emotionally invested, as are we. The supporters have been great.
“I was at the game last night and Man City Madrid on Wednesday. I watched two 4-0 home wins in a row and I was like ‘please make it another one.’ But we did enough to win 1-0.”