Analysis of Barnsley's 1-1 home draw with Northampton Town. The visitors netted a last-gasp equaliser after Herbie Kane put the Reds in front. Results elsewhere meant Barnsley finished sixth.


Barnsley reached the play-offs for a second successive season and are two games from Wembley, three from the Championship. But you would never have known it after the game.

Following a last-gasp equaliser which denied them the win they needed to guarantee a play in the top six, the news eventually came through that Oxford were the only one of the three teams who took their chance to overtake the off-form Reds who finished sixth.

But, if there was any cheer to greet that reprieve, it was not audible from the press box.

Instead the PA system repeatedly announced ‘the lap of appreciation has been cancelled’ due to a pitch invasion of hundreds of fans who ran and knee-slid their way towards the away end just as the players emerged to applaud the supporters only to retreat down the tunnel within seconds. Some of the thousands of fans who stayed in their seats were furious with those who jumped the barriers, as happens every season. The pitch invasion also meant the Player of the Year announcements were cancelled.

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The crowd of just over 15,000 was the second biggest of the season at Oakwell, only behind the attendance for the Derby game in February which was the last home win there. The fans were fairly positive throughout, with chants about Wembley and ‘we are going up’ from the Ponty End at 1-0.

But a generally unconvincing performance, late equaliser and the unsavoury scenes at the end all seemed to mask any good feelings about coming sixth.

The Reds have taken two points from their final six league games and ten from their last 12 while conceding more than two goals a game.

They finished on a six-game winless run at Oakwell and with the 12th best home record in the division, while only three relegated sides conceded more home goals than their 33.

They will be major underdogs against Bolton in the play-offs but they are in the semi-finals which can be a clean slate after a harrowing run. Things can change very quickly in football and many teams would love to be in the Reds' position.


It has been said that Barnsley had been limping towards the play-offs, but Saturday was more like other teams carrying them across the finish line on a stretcher.

The most important moment of the day for the Reds was probably not at Oakwell but about 55 miles away at Sincil Bank where Portsmouth goalkeeper Will Norris saved a penalty by Lincoln’s Danny Mandriou at 0-0. Pompey went on to win 2-0 which, along with Reading coming from behind to beat visitors Blackpool 3-2, meant Barnsley would have finished in the top six even with a loss.

Lincoln ended up two points off the Reds, who were 14 clear of them in March with two games in hand. Oxford made up a nine-point gap in their last ten games.

Caretaker Martin Devaney didn’t want to know the other scores until the end, and kept them from the players at half-time, focused purely on the win that would guarantee a play-off place. He said he only discovered the other scorelines after the Northampton equaliser when Lincoln needed to win and were 1-0 down before conceding another.

The Reds were only ever out of the top six in the live table at the very start of the game as Blackpool and Oxford took the lead before Barnsley did. They finished in the top six on merit and earned it over the season with their results but recent form is a huge concern.


This was a massive opportunity for interim coach ‘Disco’ Devaney.

During his 19-year association with Barnsley, he has played in the League One play-offs and FA Cup semi-final but never had as much focus been purely on him as this week when he was handed control of the team for a crucial game.

He promised pre-match to ‘take the shackles off’ and return to the attack-minded and more direct football which was successful before Neill Collins’ often more ponderous approach. But he said afterwards that was a ploy to gee the players up.

‘Disco ball’ never really sparkled and, perhaps unsurprisingly since he worked with the sacked Collins all year then had less than a week to prepare, many of the same problems remained.

It remains to be seen whether Devaney is in charge for the play-offs with Austrian Dominik Thalhammer strongly linked with the job. It certainly wasn’t the kind of result and performance that changes the owners’ mind such as David Flitcroft’s win over Leeds in 2013 with Craig Hignett lined up.

Barnsley shaded most of a tight game, playing just about the better and more attacking football while the visitors had no real chances until the final minutes.

But it would be a stretch to say the Reds played particularly well. They often looked nervous at the back, lacked the killer pass at the end of good moves and lost control of the game late on, leading to the leveller.

Few players were poor but most were no more than average during a tepid, turgid slog of a game. They struggled to keep the ball in the attacking third and have long spells of pressure.

Northampton were the definition of a mid-table side, arriving at Oakwell 15 points off both the top six and bottom three, having consolidated after promotion.

They had lost their last three away games without scoring while only Reading had conceded more away goals than the Cobblers’ 42 in 22 games. They had lost to relegated Fleetwood and ten man Exeter City in their previous two matches.

Their starting 11 had three appearances above League One between them and they were without top-scorer Sam Hoskins due to injury. They started five natural centre-backs in a back five before bringing on more attacking substitutes.


Barnsley’s goal came from one of several good moves but the only one to finish with some end product.

Adam Phillips brought down Josh Earl’s fine pass on the right of the box and pulled the ball back to Herbie Kane whose 18-yard shot squirmed into the bottom right corner. It was a well-hit effort but probably should have been saved by goalkeeper Lee Burge who was also at fault for Callum Styles’ goal in the reverse fixture.

The goal came out of nowhere as nothing of note had happened in the previous 17 minutes. It was the first time the Reds had led at home in more than 400 minutes of action since they drew at home to Bolton seven weeks earlier.

Kane joined Devante Cole, John McAtee and Phillips in double figures for league goals this league season.

It is the first time four players have done that since 1999/2000 with Darren Barnard, Neil Shipperley, Craig Hignett and Mike Sheron.

Phillips’ assist was his sixth of the season, the joint most with Corey O’Keeffe who had a quiet game after replacing Barry Cotter.

Kane should have had an assist at 1-0 when he intercepted Burge’s kick in the penalty box and found McAtee but the close-range shot was saved on the line by Jon Guthrie.

Cole - on his 150th Reds appearance - also missed a big chance at 1-0 he went through one-on-one and touched the ball past Burge but Jordan Willis blocked.


Jordan Williams delivered a captain’s performance - possibly his best defensively of a tough season overall.

He made the most tackles, interceptions and blocked the most shots, also producing an excellent last-ditch challenge on Louis Appere who went clean through late in the first half.

Williams, playing at right centre-back, won some big headers, which was a weak point for him in the back three earlier in the season.

Williams has played every league game this season and looks set to make his 200th Reds appearance in the play-offs.

He looked as though he would lead his side to victory and a third clean sheet in 30 games but they faded towards the end.

Shaun McWilliams headed inches wide of the bottom right corner in the 90th minute. In the 96th, a deep cross from Marc Leonard following a free-kick was met by Guthrie who got in between Phillips and Earl, with Sam Cosgrove then unable to catch him. He headed to Louis Appere to volley home and spark jubilant scenes in front of the away end.

The goal meant Barnsley will play Bolton in the play-off semi-finals and not fourth-placed Peterborough.