Analysis from Barnsley's 2-2 draw with Fleetwood Town. The visitors led twice with equalisers by Devante Cole then Corey O'Keeffe late on.
RARE EQUALISERS BUT STILL NO COMEBACK WIN
This was a week in which Oakwell witnessed what should be pretty routine events in league football - penalties and equalisers for the home side - for the first time in either 2022 or 2023.
The last time the Reds netted an equaliser in a home league game was on December 4, 2021 - the best part of two years ago - when Carlton Morris levelled for Poya Asbaghi’s side in a Championship draw with Huddersfield Town.
But they did so twice at the start and end in this game, in which they were the better side but held to a disappointing draw.
Having also levelled in a draw at Leyton Orient a week earlier, the Reds are starting to show more resilience after responding to setbacks had become a real issue over various seasons.
They still weren’t able to complete the turnaround and come from behind to win for the first time since November 3, 2021 under caretaker Jo Laumann when Victor Adeboyejo and Aaron Leya Iseka saw off Derby. That will need to happen eventually as promotions are very rarely gained by sides who do not achieve at least a few comeback wins.
After the comfortable victory over Shrewsbury in midweek, this appeared to be a big chance to take six points from six in a week and kick-start their form at Oakwell where they have lost four of the previous five league games.
It was a frustrating afternoon and there is still plenty of work to do on their home results but at least they showed fight to come back twice and avoid another home loss.
Only Charlton have scored more home goals than Barnsley this season in League One but only Bolton have conceded more.
The draw meant the Reds have gone unbeaten throughout October, winning three and drawing two, while they are six points clear of their tally at the same stage last season plus, although they dropped from third to fifth, they are still just two points off second.
REDS CONCEDE POOR OPENER AND MISS CHANCES
Neill Collins said it was a ‘winning performance’ as his side had by far the better chances, with Fleetwood scoring from two of their three shots on target.
Usually a game like that would result in a win for the Reds who have played far worse and won this season.
But they committed the cardinal sins of conceding sloppy goals and also missing chances.
The Reds had 65 per cent of the ball and 25 shots, but many went narrowly wide or were well-hit but too close to the goalkeeper, or they couldn’t convert from goalmouth scrambles.
Fleetwood’s third-minute opener had an element of fortune as the ball was deflected straight to Junior Quitirna who then, after the Reds levelled, added a spectacular second with a 25-yard free-kick. But the goals came from an individual error by Jamie McCart then Devante Cole lost the ball in the build-up to the free-kick.
Barnsley had not conceded in open play for five games since Louis Appéré netted a late consolation for Northampton on September 23. That was seven and a half hours of football in which the only goals they conceded were two penalties.
They were again solid for the most part but their slip-ups were punished.
Fleetwood arrived third-bottom but their squad contains many well-established players at this level - they were able to bring on Danny Mayor who was a regular for last year’s champions Plymouth - as well as exciting talents such as Quitirna, who went off injured on 50 minutes.
Their manager, former Reds boss Lee Johnson, had improved their results since taking over in September, especially away from home. Johnson has not lost in seven meetings with the Reds since leaving in 2016 - with all four of his returns to Oakwell being 2-2 draws.
He helped his new club avoid a seventh straight loss to Barnsley.
ANOTHER OAKWELL PENALTY
After 591 days, and 34 games, without a home league penalty - the Reds were given two in five days.
Devante Cole won the spot-kick minutes after the visitors took the lead during a frantic start to the game. He insisted on taking the penalty, despite Herbie Kane having scored in midweek. Cole - who missed in a shoot-out in the EFL Cup at Bolton in 2020 - saw his poor effort saved but scored the rebound.
Collins said that he would talk with the players on Monday about why Cole took the spot-kick. It did not matter on that occasion but they will want to make sure there is a clear plan in the future.
The goal was Cole’s 11th in 15 games this season, a phenomenal record which has him on target for more than 30 if he stays on this form all season and is not sold in January.
It was not his best day but it is difficult to criticise the division’s top-scorer.
The former Fleetwood striker could have had another penalty late on when his shirt was pulled in the box.
Fleetwood thought they should have had a penalty seconds after half-time when Jordan Williams tangled with Jack Marriott but Collins called it a perfect tackle.
O’KEEFFE UNLIKELY SAVIOUR
If the first scorer was expected, the second home goal was much more of a collector’s item.
Substitute right wing-back Corey O’Keeffe netted just the third league goal of his career.
The other two were for Rochdale in the 2021/22 season when he played alongside goalkeeper Jay Lynch who he expertly headed past in the 88th minute for his first Barnsley goal.
He had come on for Barry Cotter who had had a tough game - letting the ball run under his foot and out at least twice and struggling with his crossing.
The goal followed the Reds scoring headers last season against Fleetwood by Jack Aitchison in the 90th minute away and Robbie Cundy in the 86th at home. Those were both winners but, despite playing ten minutes of added time with the momentum of a late leveller, they could not find a winner this time.
O’Keeffe has been in and out of the side, with mixed performances and some injury issues, but hopefully the confidence of the goal can lead to more consistently good displays.
KANE IMPRESSES IN MIDFIELD
Kane was excellent.
The Barnsley midfielder was constantly hunting the ball, and creating chances with some sublime passing.
His assist for the leveller was outstanding and one of five ‘key passes’ which set up chances for his side - with Cotter, Adam Phillips and John McAtee squandering them earlier on.
Kane was a neat and tidy player last season but now seems to be taking more of a leadership role in team - trying to grab games by the scruff of the neck which he has the quality to do. He is also becoming more of a goal threat, and was the width of the crossbar away from a third goal in as many games across a week.
He can take too long on the ball at times, turning from his left foot to right as he searches for the best option - something he did on the edge of his own box in the first half before losing the ball and committing a foul which earned him a silly yellow card. But overall he is a key player for the Reds and will be missed in the next league game at Derby as that was his fifth booking of the season.
Nicky Cadden also impressed, sending in some dangerous crosses and shots.
Phillips came in for the suspended Callum Styles but struggled to make an impact. So far, Phillips has not adapted to the more possession-based style under Collins having thrived last season under the more direct Michael Duff who wanted him to latch onto loose balls at the edge of the box and shoot, which he did extremely well.
Most of the rest of the players had solid if unspectacular games - with McCart making a key error before having a decent rest of the match.
The Reds could have done with the physical presence of striker Sam Cosgrove who missed the game through injury so watched from the stands along with Styles, Luca Connell and former Reds captain Liam Kitching.
Instead Fabio Jalo, 17, was rewarded with a brief cameo after netting a hat-trick for the under 18s and a brace for the under 21s. It was first appearance in a league matchday squad under Collins and his first league appearance since January 3.