Analysis of Barnsley's 3-1 win at Burton Albion on Easter Monday. The Reds were behind at half-time but John McAtee scored twice and Luca Connell once.


It started not long after Burton took the lead late in the first half. ‘Neill Collins, your football is s***’, sang hundreds of occupants of the 1,600 strong sell-out away end, some of whom were just metres away from the Reds head coach who simply stood facing the pitch as those words boomed around the small and otherwise-quiet Pirelli Stadium.

Minutes later there was a chant of ‘we want Collins out’ by not as many fans but still a significant minority, likely hundreds again.

During half-time, Collins did not go into the changing rooms for about five minutes but stood surrounded by seven coaches, analysts and support staff.

Although they were discussing how to turn the game around and what changes to make, the chants still must have been ringing in Collins’ ears.

Even after the Reds came from behind to win - with three goals in 16 second half minutes killing the game - there were only very muted attempts to sing his name in a positive manner.

That chanting was very harsh and totally out of context with the league table as well as the sensational results many of those fans have witnessed away all season.

The idea of sacking Collins is ludicrous.

Fifth is lower than most want Barnsley to be but certainly not low enough to call for the head coach’s head.

There is some understandable frustration that the top two hopes have faded, their home form is mid-table at best, they are regularly going behind and they have not played consistently well for much of the season.

In the first half, there was frustration over the omission of John McAtee and Adam Phillips - it was later revealed they had been ill - while they had failed to score at home to relegation-battlers Cheltenham and Cambridge in their last two games then fell behind to another.

But Collins has them fifth in the league, with a very strong chance of the play-offs, and has given the away supporters the best ever season to follow the Reds around the country. Surely that deserves some patience after one disappointing half on the road.

Many promotion-chasing teams will have an indifferent half before turning it around in the second. Barnsley have done it enough this season to get the benefit of the doubt.

Unlike his predecessor Michael Duff many fans have never truly taken to Collins and, after he appeared to win the majority over temporarily with excellent results in early 2024, the recent poor run has strained the relationship again.

There is a tendency to lurch between extremes of either anointing a manager as the messiah or calling for his head, rather than accepting he is a coach who sometimes makes mistakes in his first EFL season but overall has them in a decent position with promotion very much possible in the coming weeks.

Collins showed some class post-match as he applauded the fans then said the chanting was ‘part of the game.’

The volatile nature of football was encapsulated by the post-match chants by Burton fans of ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’ to Collins’ former Tampa Bay Rowdies assistant Martin Paterson - a Reds coach last season - who suffered a sixth straight home loss.


In 137 years of Barnsley FC, they have never collected more away points in a season than their current tally of 42 - even when all totals are adjusted to three points for a win.

It is a phenomenal achievement, particularly with four games to play.

Barnsley also set a club record for the longest unbeaten away league run in one season, not losing in 11 games across almost five months.

They have also equalled the club record for most away wins with 12 and moved to within two goals of a post-war away club record of 40.

Only Portsmouth have a better away record in the EFL, by a point having played two more games.

So, how are they not firmly in the top two hunt with that away form?

Why their home form is only the 12th best is the question that will haunt Reds fans, players and staff, particularly if this Jekyll and Hyde season does not end in promotion.

No one seems to know the answer. Maybe there is more pressure at home, maybe the opposition is generally more defensive, maybe the early losses knocked their confidence there. But none of that fully explains the disparity.

There does not appear to be much difference in terms of style or approach whether home or away. They just simply perform better when not at Oakwell.

But the home travails should not take away fully from the historic away success, which could be added to now.

This was the first of a run of five games on the road out of six - although the upcoming hosts are harder opponents in theory than lowly Burton.


McAtee was dropped to bench for this game, having been one of several players laid low over the weekend with an illness which spread through the squad.

Also dropping to the bench were Phillips - who had also been unwell - and the off-form Devante Cole. That meant 32 league goals were removed from the Reds’ 11, the same amount that Burton had scored all season.

The only player to have netted more than four league goals this season in either starting 11 was Herbie Kane with nine and four of them were penalties.

Kane was one of the players to be sacrificed at half-time, along with Corey O’Keeffe. Just the presence of McAtee and Phillips warming up in their kits at the break seemed to lift the home fans ahead of the comeback.

McAtee immediately added energy and impetus to the attack before he levelled eight minutes after coming on then added another 12 minutes later. He is a charismatic, all-action figurehead for this time and beloved by the fans.

His first goal was the sort of striker’s finish he has failed to produce at times in his first ever season up front, having been an attacking midfielder. Following McAtee’s second, Barnsley have 13 goals from outside the box this season, the second most in the division after Oxford.

He only made 18 touches but made the match-winning difference.

Cosgrove, chosen to start on his own up front, missed some good chances but caused problems for the home defence and set up the second goal after playing a part in the first.

Phillips’ headers helped create the first two goals and he was more effective than Kane who regularly lost the ball in good attacking positions.


The third goal was netted by Luca Connell. It was his third for the club, all away, and first since Port Vale on Valentine’s Day last year.

He has had a series of very similar shots this season, from about 20 yards and to the left of centre but they all went narrowly wide of the bottom right corner.

This strike, from slightly closer in, should give him confidence and he will look to net some pivotal goals in the next few weeks.

Connell, who also played a part in the equaliser, made amends after gifting the hosts the lead by clumsily losing the ball.

He is yet to consistently return to the very high standards of last season, following a long break due to illness.,

He has recently been playing in a more attacking role, this time as one of the two ‘eights’ in the midfield three rather than his usual holding brief.

Jon Russell took over the defensive midfield role in this game and was praised by Collins for his performance.

He generally protected the solid back four well while playing some good forward passes. Russell has produced several decent performances for the Reds in 2024, mainly away from home.


The first half was even overall, but Barnsley missed some good chances and conceded a poor goal. Collins had changed to a back four with O’Keeffe and Nicky Cadden on the wings, in the hope of having more control on poor pitch.

They lacked some quality in key attacking moments, with six natural defenders on the pitch, and needed to lift the tempo overall.

They did so with the half-time changes, returning to their usual 3-5-2, and took control of the game early in the second half.

Instead of being April fools they began the month in a positive manner.

There will be much tougher tests to come. Burton began the day a point and a place clear of the relegation zone, having collected just two point and scored three goals from eight games. They had chances other than their goal but, once they fell behind, never looked like getting back into the game.

Burton gifted the Reds the lead through a goalkeeping error by New Zealander Max Crocombe, who did a favour to his former Melbourne Victory ‘keeper coach Tom Fawdry who is now with the Reds.

This win meant Barnsley have 28 points from behind this season, which was the joint most in the EFL until Ipswich beat Southampton later in the day.

They also have the joint most second half goals in League One with 45.

Last year they were denied a clear penalty for a handball by home captain John Brayford who should have been sent off, then could not recover from that setback as often happened under Duff. This year they are far more resilient which is fortunate because they are falling behind in nearly every game at the moment. They certainly have plenty of character which should serve them well in the promotion run-in.