Analysis of Barnsley's late turnaround win over Leyton Orient at Oakwell. The visitors scored in the tenth minute but Adam Phillips netted in the 88th and 95th.
REDS NEVER GIVE UP AND GET VITAL VICTORY
THE LAST time Leyton Orient visited Oakwell, in December 2014, it was then Barnsley boss Danny Wilson’s 1,000th match as a manager.
This game was also a milestone in the career of Neill Collins who, unlike his mentor and Oakwell legend Wilson in that doomed second spell, looks to have the Reds in a strong position to get out of League One.
This was an astonishing victory - coming from behind on 87 minutes to win in the 95th, the latest ever such turnaround in the club’s history.
After Luca Connell was sent off straight after the equaliser, they could have accepted a late draw with ten men against the division’s form team but went for the win and got it.
The celebrations were equally remarkable with the players piling into the East Stand and Mael de Givegney appearing to crowd-surf several rows deep which earned him a yellow card.
Once again Collins’ side showed the impressive character and determination of a team who have now come from behind four times to win this season - with only leaders Portsmouth taking more points from losing positions.
It was the kind of result that suggests it could be their year and will give them belief and momentum for rest of the season.
After looking, on 87 minutes, as if they would suffer a second straight home loss so fall well behind the top two and back into a scrap for the last play-off places, joined by Orient, they suddenly jumped up to fourth with games in hand on the top two.
After 30 games last season, the Reds were sixth with 56 points – 12 points off the top two. After 30 games of this campaign, they are fourth with 56 points – four points off the top two.
DIVISION’S FORM TEAM STUNNED
Orient were unbeaten in eight with six wins and six clean sheets, turning over top two contenders Portsmouth and Bolton, while they had won four of their last six away games and only lost one of ten on the road since September.
They were the only team in League One who had not lost after taking the lead this season, winning 12 and drawing four of their 16 matches in which they have gone ahead.
They also did not lose after taking the lead through all of last season when they won League Two, so the last time it happened was in October 2021 at Port Vale, before the appointment of Richie Wellens who was in the West Stand for this game due to a touchline ban.
Barnsley were older on average than Orient while ex-Red George Moncur was the only visitor who had played more than a handful of games above League One and many had not been at this level before this season. That extra experience and pedigree seemed to work in Barnsley’s favour as they kept going and eventually found the win.
It was a deserved victory as the hosts had been the better side after making one of their now regular poor home starts, with Orient getting deeper and more defensive which cost them the win and dented their chance of a second successive promotion.
The Reds had 62 per cent of possession, 23 shots to seven and nine of the ten corners. Orient did not have a shot on target or barely an attack between taking the lead in the tenth minute then injury-time when Brandon Cooper shot tamely at Liam Roberts with the score 1-1.
It was a totally different proposition for Barnsley than a week earlier at Bolton who dominated the ball with the Reds counter-attacking.
Barnsley created numerous chances in the first half but struggled after the break to open up their ultra-defensive visitors until the remarkable final minutes, with the team’s desire and fans support earning an extraordinary ending.
PHILLIPS NETS FIRST BRACE OF CAREER
To invoke the memory of the most famous late comeback by an English team, Adam Phillips played the role of both Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
The midfielder had never scored two goals in a game before, having thought he had done so at Forest Green last season before one was taken off him as it deflected in off Mads Andersen.
This time he equalised in the 88th minute then won it in the 95th.
He doubled his tally for the season, having not scored before mid-December, but - with three assists as well - is now on course for similar figures to last season. He has been consistently good across the last two months after a slow start to the campaign.
There was also quality from the assists - with a fine lofted pass by Mael de Gevigney who had another strong game, and an excellent free-kick by substitute Corey O’Keeffe.
De Gevigney now has three assists and O’Keeffe four, with they have both scored twice.
After the leveller, Luca Connell was shown a second yellow card for what he said to the referee as the players were lining up for the kick-off. Connell, like Herbie Kane and John McAtee, was not at his best especially in the second half.
It was Barnsley’s second red card of the season - with the other for Sam Cosgrove also against Leyton Orient and also for two quick yellows late on including one for dissent.
ATMOSPHERE IMPROVES AS TEAM AND FANS SEEM TO CLICK
From the start, the atmosphere seemed different at Oakwell.
There was a standing ovation in the West Stand when Neill Collins walked into the dugout and huge cheers for the players when they ran into position to start. Even after the early goal, the support just seemed louder than usual.
As often happens, the closing of the transfer window made some previously uncertain fans realise they have a settled and committed squad to support for the rest of the season which will be over soon and, in this case, could culminate in promotion.
It was a year on since the win over Cambridge, which saw Max Watters sent off before half-time then the home crowd – who had been asked by Michael Duff to be louder – roar the hosts to a victory then back their team all the way to Wembley.
This game, although a much more narrow win, felt similar as the supporters got well behind the players through most of the match, were louder than for much of the season then went wild when the late goals went in.
Hopefully it is the start of a similar all-together end to the season.
Next up at Oakwell are promotion rivals Derby and Bolton so the supporters will play a crucial part again.
Collins said: “It’s the right time of year, we can all smell what’s coming.”
Incidentally, referee Ross Joyce did both this game and the Cambridge match last year - issuing two red cards, but the Reds have not lost any of the ten games he has taken charge of.
POOR STARTS AT HOME STILL AN ISSUE
Barnsley have scored once in the first 15 minutes of home games this season and conceded seven – the most in the division.
The Reds actually reacted well to the tenth-minute goal and it was a much better first half performance than the previous two home games.
But they cannot keep starting sloppily at Oakwell, with Collins and Phillips both saying so post-match.
The nature of the goal was also irritatingly familiar with Jordan Williams beaten far too easily in the air. With Donovan Pines getting closer to full match fitness, and a trip to the more direct and physical Shrewsbury on Tuesday, there must be at least a temptation to start Pines and push Williams out to right wing-back.
Williams has been outmuscled countless times in key moments this season or simply gifted the ball to the opponents. This was a combination of the two as he let the ball bounce then tried to volley it but Ollie O’Neill beat him to it.
Barry Cotter, who started on the right, caused problems with his long throws and was very advanced up the pitch but lacked end product with his feet and eventually succumbed to injury.
On the other side, Nicky Cadden was lively in the first half and created chances while the left centre-back Josh Earl had a solid home debut. Devante Cole - who scored in the 2014 game against Orient - could easily have had a hat-trick but was denied by fine goalkeeping.