Analysis of Barnsley's 2-2 draw at Peterborough United. Herbie Kane and Devante Cole put the visitors 2-0 ahead but high-flying Posh hit back.


This was, by a considerable distance, the best the Reds have played against any of their fellow top eight sides this season.

Having lost the first five such games, including at home to Posh in August, they scraped a home win over Stevenage six days earlier but this was a far better display.

It was obviously not a perfect performance - they lost a 2-0 lead, continued to struggle against physical strikers, and were lucky not to concede a penalty at 2-2 while the hosts had several other chances.

But Barnsley also had a series of opportunities as they gave as good as they got in a whole-hearted and entertaining display - contributing to a very good game of League One football.

Neill Collins said it was as well as they had played all season and it was hard to argue with that.

Peterborough began the game in the second automatic promotion place, were top-scorers in the division with the third best defensive record, while they had lost just one of their last 17 league games and were unbeaten in 14 at London Road.

To go to that sort of opponent and compete so well, leaving disappointed not to have won, bodes well for the second half of the season when they must start to beat the top sides often if they are to be successful.

This was the first of four successive away games against Barnsley’s promotion rivals as they now visit Stevenage, Oxford and Bolton in their first trips of 2024.

If they play like that, while hopefully tightening up at the back through transfers and training, they are capable of some big away wins.

Posh were four points clear of the Reds but had played a game more so this was a chance for Barnsley to open up the fight for second with a win. They could not quite do that but remained in striking distance and also unbeaten in seven league games.


In recent years, since adopting a high-pressing style, Barnsley have enjoyed some games when they visited high-flying teams who like to pass out from the back and caused chaos.

They did so in the first half at London Road, winning the ball in the Posh half at least ten times - including for both goals.

It was very poor from the hosts but also a credit to Barnsley’s tenacity and tactics.

Herbie Kane got the first, continuing his sudden evolution into a regular scorer from midfield. This was his sixth of the season and fifth in the last nine games, as he is getting forward much more often and with more intent and confidence then previously.

Since that awkward press conference in which he gave short shrift to some innocuous questions, harshly interpreted by some fans as apathy towards the club, he has three goals and three assists in five games.

Each of them may slightly strength his bargaining power if and when he discusses with the club an extension of his contract which runs out this year. He is certainly someone the Reds should be looking to keep on current performances.

Devante Cole, also out of contract in the summer, netted his 13th goal of the season and was a constant threat on the left side of the attack - beating men and driving his side forward.

John McAtee was instrumental, tackling the goalkeeper for the opener then showing great footwork and composure to assist the second after Corey O’Keeffe won the ball initially. He was taken off late on for Max Watters with neither Sam Cosgrove or Fabio Jalo brought on.


Neill Collins played under Posh boss Darren Ferguson at Preston but they did not get on and he was moved on quickly.

Collins admitted he was ‘very surprised’ when team sheets were exchanged and Ferguson had given big striker Jonson Clarke-Harris – who is expected to leave in January – his first start in more than two months, presumably having seen Barnsley struggle so much against physicality in previous games. That changed Posh’s threat from a team of pacy attackers who play the ball on the floor which the Reds had mainly prepared for.

Collins had also changed his side.

Owen Dodgson, naturally a left-back, came in at left centre-back for the injured Jamie McCart. Collins felt he needed a naturally left-footed player there rather than bringing in the more physical Kacper Lopata into the middle, or returning to Conor McCarthy or Jack Shepherd who both look likely to be loaned out in January.

That meant the Reds had two full-backs in their back three, with Jordan Williams continuing on the right.

There were concerns pre-match that Clarke-Harris would bully a back three built for mobility not strength and, after a fantastic start for the visitors at the other end, that proved to be the case.

He scored either side of half-time, winning headers against first Mael de Gevigney then Dodgson, although there must also be question marks over the closing down of the players who crossed while Williams almost cleared the first but sliced into his net.

Again the need for more physical centre-backs in January was highlighted.

After two quick goals, the home crowd and players were whipped up into a frenzy but Barnsley deserve credit for their response as they managed to halt Posh’s momentum by defending well and having spells of possession as well as attacks. O'Keeffe could have won it but hit the bar in a great position.

It was a much better response than at Port Vale three days earlier when they were poor for all the second half.

The final quarter of the game was an even slugfest with both sides coming very close to the winner, but a draw was a fair result overall.

Lopata eventually came on midway through the second half, with Williams returning to the right wing-back brief of last season. After looking clumsy at first and gifting Clarke-Harris the ball, Lopata became the dominant figure in the box - making eight clearances.


Ephron Mason-Clark burst through into the left of the box at 2-2 and looked to be clearly tripped by Luca Connell.

But referee Adam Herczeg waved away penalty claims to the disbelief of Posh and their fans.

Back in April, Herczeg missed a blatant handball on the line by Burton Albion captain John Brayford which should have resulted in a red card and penalty – a serious blow to the top two ambitions of the Reds who would lose that game, but receive a private apology from refereeing bosses.

Barnsley’s luck with refereeing decisions could possibly be turning. They are starting to get some penalties while the goals against Wycombe and Charlton at home could easily have been ruled out on another day.

Had Peterborough have been given the penalty, there is no guarantee they would have scored as Liam Roberts was in inspired form with several key saves.


This game was the midway point of the campaign.

The Reds have 42 points which has them on course for the play-offs. It is an impressive total given the disruption of the summer and the players they have lost.

Although the schedule in the second half of the season is tougher in theory, with most of the top ten to play away from home, the Reds will expect to collect more points than in the first half if they have a good January, can keep key men fit, and improve their performance levels consistently.

It has generally been a season of grimly grinding out results rather than playing brilliantly and dominating teams. But the last few performances have shown glimpses of another level the Reds can get to. They just need to stay there consistently.

Barnsley have had a very successful 2023 overall, winning 30 games and getting to Wembley.

But it has also been a draining and tumultuous year with the play-off final loss, changes in staff and players and a series of embarrassing errors off the pitch including the FA Cup ejection.

They ended it on good form and a healthy position just outside the play-offs with the top two not out of sight.

After two wins and a draw at a top side, they have an impressive seven points out of nine available in this festive schedule - with the chance to make it ten at home to Wigan on Monday. A New Year’s Day win would put the Reds in a great place going into a 12-day break and the vital transfer window.