Analysis of Barnsley's 2-1 win over Stevenage. The visitors led early but John McAtee scored a fine leveller then Herbie Kane won it.


The list of problems Neill Collins is regularly asked about has been getting smaller in recent weeks and it shrank further with this excellent result.

The Reds had received their first penalty in the league at Oakwell for nearly 600 days in late October, won from behind for the first time in more than two years earlier this month then, finally, beat a fellow top eight side this season.

Each one must be a confidence boost for this promotion-chasing team.

They had lost all five of their previous games against sides in the top eight - conceding three each to Peterborough, Oxford, Portsmouth and Derby as well as one in a drab defeat to Blackpool.

That rightly created doubts about their ability to compete for the top six but this result should give them a major pre-Christmas fillip going into games against the other high-flyers, mainly away, starting at Peterborough on Friday.

There are still some questions to answer. The Reds have conceded in the first five minutes in four of their last seven games while they are yet to play regularly well this season, with this another gritty if generally uninspiring performance in a turgid game. They could easily have been 2-0 down but levelled through a game-changing moment of magic and won it with a fortunate deflection.

They certainly rode their luck but showed some character and determination to get in front and hold on.

Stevenage are the surprise package in the top six after promotion last season, but were unbeaten in 13 games in all competitions and had the second best away record in the division.

They left - after a first ever meeting with Barnsley - just two points and a place clear of the Reds who had two games in hand.


The Reds’ home form, another problem for much of the campaign, is gradually improving.

They are unbeaten in six at Oakwell in all competitions since losing to Blackpool on September 30, winning three and drawing three.

They still have just the 14th best home tally in the division but, with a series of bottom half side to visit Oakwell in early 2024, they have the chance to improve that record significantly and collect a substantial points tally at home which underpins a promotion challenge.

It was the first time they had come from behind to win at home in more than two years, while they had only suffered one defeat in their last 11 games home or away.

There was a healthy crowd at Oakwell, boosted by generous ticket offers, and the home supporters certainly saw a fine result if not a vintage performance.


For 32 minutes, the Reds had been poor – not having a shot and making big errors at the other end to gift Stevenage an opener and a huge chance for 2-0 which Jordan Roberts had just dragged wide of the bottom right corner.

There were arguments between players on the pitch and major disgruntlement in the crowd who seemed on the verge of turning on Collins and his team.

But suddenly Callum Styles lofted a pass over the visiting defence to John McAtee who, in a moment of genius, brilliantly lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper and in from 20 yards out.

It was his first goal at Oakwell, seventh of the campaign in total and surely a Goal of the Season contender. It was similar to his cup goal at Horsham last month.

He celebrated his fifth goal in six games with a backflip as flamethrowers erupted in the background.

McAtee could have made it 2-1 seconds later when played clean through but goalkeeper Taye Ashby-Hammond made a good one-on-one save.

If he can add more of that sort of bread and butter striker’s goals to his moments of genius, he will play a lot higher than League One – possibly even where his current parent club Luton are in the top flight.

His strikepartner Devante Cole had a very quiet first half but was much better after the break as he held the ball up well, and found team-mates with good skill including in the build-up to the winner.


After a decent finish to the first half, Barnsley were again poor at the start of the second as they looked very sluggish and had to defend almost constantly for 15 minutes.

But the Reds began to drag themselves back into game, putting better moves together and attacking a lot more - with substitute Sam Cosgrove giving them a focal point who they could pump longer balls to over Stevenage’s press.

That led to Herbie Kane’s winner which capped his 100th game for the club.

After a nice passing move on the right wing, Kane received the ball just inside the visitors’ half and was urged to drive forward which he did impressively before his 20-yard shot deflected off Terrence Vancooten and looped into the top left corner past the wrong-footed goalkeeper.

Kane - who blocked a shot with his face in the first half - now has four goals in his last eight league games, as many as in his first 76 league games for the club.

He had not had his best game leading up to the goal but, like with his assist against Charlton and penalty at Reading, he found a way to make a significant contribution.

Kane has also been booked in all three of those games, collecting eight for the season which means he can only receive one more yellow card in the next 17 if he wants to avoid a two-game ban for ten cautions in the first 38 matches.

Alongside Kane in midfield, Adam Phillips had a difficult game as he struggled to build on his first goal against Charlton and was taken off after 60 minutes for Cosgrove with McAtee dropping into a number ten role.

Luca Connell too was not at his top level but put in his usual whole-hearted display before being taken off just before after the winner.


Barnsley knew what they were getting with Steve Evans’ Stevenage - the team who won the most headers and played the fewest passes in the division this season.

Collins took tall duo Cosgrove and Owen Dodgson out of his 11 and replaced them with the much smaller McAtee and Styles up front and left wing-back respectively.

Although both McAtee and Styles were returning from injury, it also appeared that Collins was trying to field a technically gifted and mobile team who could, in theory, play around their bigger and more physical visitors.

Although they did not produce much eye-catching football, it partially worked as Styles assisted McAtee for the leveller.

In windy conditions against the division’s most direct team, bringing back the aerially dominant Kacper Lopata must have been tempting. But Collins stuck with his usual back three, including Jordan Williams on the right. They got off to a bad start with the early goal.

Mael de Gevigney lost a header to ex-Red Kane Hemmings – not exactly a targetman – and Jamie Reid was free in the box to beat Williams and de Gevigney then have a low shot which was well saved by Liam Roberts who had about a second to react as Luther James-Wildin shot from a tight angle on the right and the goalkeeper touched the ball into his net.

There were other scares to come but the defence improved throughout and showed real resilience. Williams made the most tackles and won six headers, with de Gevigney winning seven, as the Reds got to grips more with Stevenage’s direct style which began to look predictable in the second half.

Stevenage have one of the oldest teams in the division and averaged 28 in age, compared to Barnsley’s 24, but not much experience above League One – a level many of them had not played at before this season.

The two clubs have opposite approaches with the Reds developing youth and Stevenage looking for reliable veterans.

The visitors started on top but faded and, perhaps due to the above, could not finish as strongly as their hosts.

It was a strange game in many ways. A mix-up meant the Reds put Styles’ number on the substitute board when they wanted to take off McAtee, then Cosgrove’s late goal was controversially ruled out after being assisted by Fabio Jalo who was judged offside.