Analysis of Barnsley's 1-1 draw at Bolton Wanderers on Saturday. Devante Cole scored early for the Reds then the hosts levelled midway through the first half.


For much of this game, Barnsley looked like a top two contender - but especially the first half of the second half.

Title favourites Bolton, with the best defensive record in the division, were totally rattled - regularly gifting the ball to their more energetic and alert visitors while the large home crowd, who started off roaring their team on, were turning on the Trotters.

Barnsley did not have much of the ball, especially in the first half, but were extremely solid and organised at the back, then created chances through relentless pressing and slick counter-attacking.

They repeated a formula which won them last season’s play-off semi-final but had created a lot more than in those tense matches.

But, having taken the lead, they missed three one-on-one chances - each time after Bolton lost the ball in their half.

Wanderers had conceded two in six league games but could have been 4-0 down.

The Reds were made to pay when the hosts netted from their first shot on target - and their first real attack of the second half - then the rest of the match was fairly even, with Barnsley withstanding a lot of pressure at the very end.

It was a frustrating afternoon but the reaction of the 1500 away fans showed there was far more to cheer about than regret.

Overall the Reds were the better team and missed easily the better chances.

A more different performance to the first half shambles at home to Exeter a week earlier you could not imagine.


Since losing their first five meetings with the current top eight, Barnsley have beaten Stevenage, drawn at Peterborough won at Oxford then drawn at Bolton.

They played well at both Posh and on Saturday so, although the four points lost after leading in both could be costly, they certainly held their own at two title challengers.

The narrative that this side plays poorly against promotion rivals is now out of date.

But to challenge for the top two, they have to be better at seeing these games out, beat some of the teams above them, and show something like Saturday’s level of performance consistently against all opponents.

If they play like they did in this game for the remainder of the campaign, with slightly better finishing, any position is still attainable.

Bolton - who had won six of their last seven league games and had the second best home record in the division - could have gone eight points clear of the Reds with a game in hand if they won. A win for the visitors would have blown the top two race wide open, but the draw keeps automatic promotion within sight if still fairly distant. They are ten points off top and six off second but have games in hand and must play those above them.

The Reds have not won in 16 league meetings with Bolton since 1997 or 11 league visits to the Lancashire club.

But they will have the chance to defeat them at Oakwell on March 5 and must believe they can.


Devante Cole netted his 17th league goal of the season after six minutes.

The only player to score more for Barnsley in a league campaign since 2000 was Sam Winnall with 21 in 2015/16.

With 17 games left and an impeccable fitness record in recent seasons, Cole is on course for one of the best tallies in Barnsley’s history, while he is clear as the top-scorer in the division again.

Barnsley had hoped to sign a new striker on deadline day but this was a reminder that they have the most prolific marksman at this level.

Just as impressive as his scoring was his excellent work-rate in leading the press along with the lively John McAtee as well as defending set pieces in his penalty area. It was a fine all-round performance with only a superb save denying him a second goal which would likely have secured victory.

The goal he did score saw Barry Cotter’s left-wing long throw headed on at the near post by Adam Phillips – who ran past three defenders to brilliantly flick the ball into the six-yard box – and Cole volleyed in left-footed from five yards out after being left by marker Paris Maghoma.

It was a set piece goal from the training ground and Neill Collins credited goalkeeper coach Tom Fawdry.


While Cotter played a key role in the Barnsley goal, he could have defended the equaliser better. He was beaten to a header by Bolton left wing-back Zac Ashworth who headed in from Aaron Collins’ impressive right-wing cross to the back post.

Cotter - who came in for Corey O’Keeffe to make his first league start since November - had made sensible decisions when defending crosses before then but will be disappointed with the goal, and was taken off seconds later.

Jordan Williams - who is expected to move out of the back three to right wing-back when Donovan Pines is ready to play - is a more seasoned defender who may well have cut that cross out.

That highlights the need for Barnsley to get their strongest 11 on the pitch as soon as possible.

But Cotter still may have a role to play, particularly off the bench, with his long throw and explosive forward running.

The build-up to the goal was a good move but the Reds midfield was slightly behind play, with some claims of a foul on Herbie Kane.


Josh Earl made an excellent debut after signing two days earlier and training just once with the Reds.

He played on the left of the back three, in place of the loaned-out Jack Shepherd, defending impressively in the air and on the floor while showing glimpses of his ability to bring the ball out of defence.

Earl had a nine-game loan spell at Bolton in 2019/20, working under former Reds bosses Keith Hill and David Flitcroft as the financially-stricken Trotters were dropping into League Two.

He was sent off early on in an infamous 7-1 loss at Accrington Stanley, for a foul on Dion Charles who is now Bolton’s top-scorer but was kept very quiet by Earl and his team-mates as was ex-Red Victor Adeboyejo.

Earl just seemed to instantly fit into the Reds side and make them more defensively solid. It will be a tough choice between him and Jamie McCart, who is close to fitness, but there is now strength in depth in that area.

The other January signings were also in the squad for the first time as Conor Grant came on late on and Pines was on the bench ahead of schedule due to the lack of defensive cover.

As well as Earl, Williams had a fine game while Mael de Gevigney struggled with a couple of long balls which created chances for the hosts but overall was part of a robust defensive unit.

Herbie Kane and Luca Connell returned to the 11 after injury illness with Jon Russell and Max Watters benched.

They unsurprisingly added quality to the midfield - with Connell especially winning the ball often against his former club, while Bolton’s midfield anchor Josh Sheehan had a very poor match as he regularly lost possession deep in his half.

Phillips assisted the opener and created two big chances after winning the ball high up the pitch. Although he missed a big chance, he was a constant threat.