Analysis of Barnsley's 2-2 draw with promotion rivals Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday at Oakwell. The Reds went 2-0 up through John McAtee and Donovan Pines but Bolton came back to level in the 98th minute with a rebound from a penalty.


BARNSLEY were seconds away from beating Bolton in a league game for the first time in 17 attempts since August 1997, when the UK number one single was Men In Black by Will Smith.

They could do with the ‘flashy thing’ used in that film to wipe their memories of a agonising finale which saw promotion rivals win a penalty deep in injury-time then, after the heroic Liam Roberts saved it, the rebound was tapped in for 2-2 on 98 minutes.

The Reds had looked set for a win that would have put them slightly in pole position for second place after 35 games but instead were left temporarily flat and deflated while their visitors and their fans were on a high, adding another twist to a three-way battle for second that could go to the final day.

The result itself is arguably better for the Reds, who will overtake Bolton if they win their game in hand, and probably a fair one after the visitors - who had lost their previous two away games and have won three in ten - put their hosts under incredible pressure late on.

But losing a 2-0 lead including such a late leveller in that dramatic manner is clearly disappointing, as Barnsley missed out on a fourth straight league win for the first time this season as well as a third successive home victory.

The Reds have lost just two of their last 25 league games, have scored in the last 22 in all competitions, and are unbeaten in seven.

Going into the home games with Derby and Bolton, four points would have seemed like a solid return – especially either side of a win at Wycombe.

The last time Randell Williams scored against Barnsley, the only goal for Wycombe in December 2018, Daniel Stendel’s side went unbeaten for the next 20 matches on their way to automatic promotion.

This time they need to get over Williams’ late leveller quickly before another hard game against in-form Lincoln on Saturday who have a very strong defensive record.


The last-gasp penalty was the seventh awarded against Barnsley this season - the second most in League One behind lowly Fleetwood - and brought their first spot-kick save of the league campaign.

It was given against former Bolton man Josh Earl who had a good game before then, making a crucial block and playing good passes forward.

Collins did not complain about the penalty decision afterwards but instead that his players on the edge of the box did not track the run of Randell Williams. The likes of Luca Connell and Herbie Kane had put in a big shift in midfield without being at their very best, but were left flat-footed after Roberts’ save.

Roberts had also saved three times from one-on-one situations and somehow kept the ball out at the end of a bonkers 90th-minute scramble, after which the defence celebrated emphatically.

He has made the most saves per game, with 3.5, of any goalkeeper who has played more than ten League One matches this season, while Barnsley’s goalkeepers in general have had to make the most saves of any team’s stoppers this season. That is a very unusual stat for a promotion-chasing side and, although they have got better at it, they need to protect their goalkeeper more in the run-in.


Barnsley were impressive for the first hour, scoring twice and playing some good football at times while defending solidly - with another big and noisy Oakwell crowd behind them.

But, after going 2-0 up having been used to coming from behind recently, they seemed to get more defensive and struggled to stem the tide of Bolton pressure which eventually led to the equaliser.

Bolton had played on each of the previous two Tuesdays when Barnsley did not, but it was the hosts who tired towards the end while the impressive Trotters played attractive football through them regularly.

For four home games in a row, an ex-Red has scored or assisted the visitors’ first goal. Jack Aitchison netted for Exeter then George Moncur and Conor Hourihane assisted for Leyton Orient and Derby County respectively. This time Victor Adeboyejo, who spent five years at Oakwell until 2022, scored his tenth of the season which is more than he netted in 98 games for Barnsley.

That left the Reds with 35 minutes to hold on which was too long in the end. Collins admitted his side could have managed the game better while saying they were fatigued late on after their relentless pressing in the first hour or so.

The visitors brought on veteran strikers Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Cameron Jerome who caused real problems for the home back three. In contrast, Barnsley had few options on the bench that could step straight into such a game and continue the high-energy, pressing performance. They changed to a 3-4-3, with substitutes Conor Grant and Barry Cotter in the wide roles, but were less and less successful at disrupting Bolton’s rhythm as they struggled to keep the ball or slow the game down to grind out the win - instead relying on remarkable last-ditch defending and goalkeeping.


Since losing their first five meetings with the current top eight, Barnsley are unbeaten in six against them with three wins and three draws.

It could have been six wins but they lost 2-0 leads in draws at Peterborough and in this game, while they were also 1-0 up at Bolton a month ago before missing some big chances and drawing.

Those dropped points could be important at the end of the season but it must be recognised the games were against the top sides in the division and draws are not disastrous.

The Reds have dropped 17 points from winning positions this season - seven draws and the August loss to Peterborough - compared to just six last season. They are also much better at coming from behind than under Michael Duff – 22 points from losing positions compared to three last season – as they appear to have less control of games but a lot more resilience in adversity.


John McAtee’s opening goal ended an 11-game barren spell since his stunning Boxing Day brace at Port Vale, and moved him onto ten in all competitions.

Collins had said he was unlikely to play due to a back issue but he started in place of Saturday scorer Sam Cosgrove, with Barnsley focusing on pressing Bolton as they did successfully in the away draw.

Although Bolton were more savvy this time, the press worked again for the opening goal, with Mael de Gevigney running well out of his centre-back position to win the ball near the Bolton box then McAtee slotted home. That is back-to-back goals for McAtee that have come from the Frenchman winning the ball high up the pitch, although this was a much easier finish than the magnificent 30-yard lob at Vale Park.

The Reds will be hoping that Devante Cole - who also pressed frantically alongside McAtee - will soon end a goalless run of six games.

The second was netted by Pines whose two goals with his feet in his first three starts are an added bonus after he was brought in for defensive stability. He was strong in the air again but often pulled out of position by Bolton’s clever movement and passing on a learning night for him.

All of the back five made vital blocks or clearances.

Nicky Cadden returned to the starting 11 after illness with another weekend goal-scorer Corey O’Keeffe dropping to the bench then coming on midway through the second half, this time on the right with Jordan Williams switching to the left.