Analysis of Barnsley's 3-2 loss at Portsmouth on Tuesday. The Reds led through Devante Cole then John McAtee but the hosts scored twice late on to win the title and get promoted.


WHILE overjoyed Portsmouth players and fans celebrated in a sea of blue on the barely-visible pitch, Neill Collins conducted his much less joyous post-match interview in a utility room between a washing machine and a laminator.

It was the only pocket of relative quiet within the raucous Pompey promotion party, although his sombre media debrief was punctuated by cheers and whoops from the corridors outside. The disconsolate Reds players then filed into that room to wait for the team bus which was battling through the crowds outside - just as the TV in the corner started playing the highlights from the match they had just lost.

They went from leading on 83 minutes and looking set to secure a place in the play-offs, to losing and going into the final two matches still needing three points.

The Reds can take motivation from their impressive performance for the first 80 minutes as well as – more painfully – from watching rivals celebrate promotion, which they could still be doing themselves in a month at Wembley. That idea looked more realistic on Tuesday than during many of the recent games.

But they have to get into the play-offs first and this was another bitter blow as they continue to stumble in the final straight with chasers closing including Saturday’s hosts Blackpool.

The gap to seventh that was ten points is now down to four, with the huge game at Bloomfield Road followed by a home meeting with mid-table Northampton Town on the last day.

One more win should not seem such a tough assignment but they have collected just nine points from ten games, conceding 21 goals, and only one from the most recent four. After setting records for their away form, they have now lost three in a row on the road. If it becomes four in Blackpool, they may be in serious danger of missing out on the top six despite just needing to beat the Cobblers.


Up until the 82nd minute, Barnsley looked set to secure a shock win at the leaders and set a club record for 13 away victories in a season.

Portsmouth – who would have been promoted anyway with defeat since Bolton drew at home to Shrewsbury Town – barely threatened in the previous half an hour and had been tamed by a fine away performance with the packed crowd subdued.

But suddenly striker John McAtee, who had put the Reds in front, made a rash and unnecessary challenge on the right side of his penalty area on Christian Saydee who had just come on. The referee pointed to the spot and, despite McAtee’s initial protests, the Reds agreed afterwards it was a penalty.

Colby Bishop fired into the bottom left corner for his fourth goal in as many meetings with the Reds. Liam Roberts dived the right way but had no chance of a third successive spot-kick save after keeping out penalties by Bolton and Charlton.

Only Fleetwood have given away more League One penalties than Barnsley’s nine this season while no side has let in more goals from the spot than their seven.


Conor Shaughnessy’s goal almost a year earlier for Burton Albion was a major blow for Michael Duff’s Barnsley’s top two chances. His winner in this game was another setback for their top six hopes under Neill Collins.

The defender burst past Adam Phillips then beat Jamie McCart in the air to head in a right-wing corner six yards out.

McCart had been brought on seconds earlier with Collins saying it was to combat the aerial threat of home substitute Bishop. But it backfired as he had also made a mistake in dealing with a long ball which led to Portsmouth winning the corner that Shaughnessy scored from.

It was the second time in four days that Barnsley had conceded a header from close range off a right-wing corner, following the unmarked Sam Smith netting for Reading. It is a worrying habit to develop at this crucial time of the season.


Devante Cole ended a 14-game goalless run with a fifth-minute opener.

It was his 18th goal of the season, the most any Reds player has scored in a league campaign since Sam Winnall notched 21 in 2015/16.

It is great news for the Reds that their top-scorer is back among the goals and they probably need even more from him if they are to go up.

After good passes by Conor Grant and Phillips, Barry Cotter scuffed a left-footed cross from the right of the box and it fell perfectly for Cole to turn in from close range. That goal meant the Reds moved onto 41 away from home, their most in a post-war season.

It was Cotter’s fifth assist of the campaign and second in two games, after making his first start in 13 matches. He had been brought into the 11 for Corey O’Keeffe who, as so often in his Barnsley career, was dropped to the bench after a good performance.

Cole wrongly had a goal ruled out at Fratton Park last season after the referee did not play an advantage for a foul on Josh Martin, who is now at Portsmouth and was in attendance but not in their matchday squad.

This time his goal stood and, for a few seconds, the home crowd – which had been deafening – fell almost totally silent with the only noise from the 309 away fans.

The atmosphere changed two minutes later when Kusini Yengi lashed in at the other end after the ball fell nicely for him following some pinball in the Reds box with Josh Earl and Jordan Williams blocking efforts.

But Barnsley wrestled the game back in their favour and again took the lead just before the hour-mark when McAtee beat the goalkeeper one-on-one, having missed when clean through in the first half.

Again the assist was from a wing-back with Nicky Cadden speeding into the home half and finding the perfect pass.


Portsmouth are unbeaten in 16, winning 12, while they have won seven out of eight at home and collected 50 points at Fratton Park, where the Reds are winless in nine.

The hosts made five changes from their draw with third-placed Bolton on Saturday, including dropping star men Paddy Lane and Bishop to the bench.

Barnsley had to soak up pressure by defending well, but also counter-attacked efficiently with some fine flowing football. As the game went on they grew in confidence and began to keep the ball for longer periods, finishing with 54 per cent possession against one of the best passing teams in the division.

Although they will not play many other sides who invite them to press and counter-attack as much as Portsmouth, the Reds must take confidence and momentum from the way they outplayed the champions at times.

The forwards pressed and harried, the midfield dictated the tempo for long spells, the wing-backs set up goals and the starting back three were far more solid than in recent weeks.

But they let themselves down in some big game-changing moments which is partly why Pompey are up and the Reds are clinging on to a place in the play-offs which, if they make, they must manage far better.

Grant – in for the injured Jon Russell – had an encouraging full debut for the Reds, getting stuck in and showing fine footwork at times including in the build-up for the opener.

He played alongside Herbie Kane who, like Cole, was closer to his best following a recent slight dip in his very high standards.

Kane won five headers and was a disciplined presence in front of the defence while also passing well.

Phillips was the most attacking of the midfielders, often playing alongside Cole and McAtee.