Martin Devaney hailed a ‘fantastic performance’ in the second leg of the play-off semi-final at Bolton Wanderers but admitted the first leg defeat cost them.

The Reds were 3-1 down from the first leg then, despite opening the scoring in the second through Sam Cosgrove, they were 2-1 behind at half-time and 5-2 down on aggregate. Adam Phillips and Cosgrove made it 5-4 and then they had chances to level at the end.

Interim coach Devaney told the Chronicle: “It was a hell of a game and we took them to the wire. Conceding late on in the first game has killed us. It was a foul on the ‘keeper.

“But tonight we showed real grit and character. It was a fantastic performance. We played long and Sam caused a lot of problems. That’s how we want a Barnsley team to play. I am really proud of the players.

“They showed real reliance and fight to get back in the game.”

He added: “It was always going to be tough after the home game and our home form isn’t great. We knew tonight would be tough but to play like that shows what the players can do.”

The second Bolton goal was from a corner which has been an issue for months. Devaney said: “Again it’s a set piece that has really hurt us all season. It’s not a night to blame anyone. We reflect and improve for next season.”

Cosgrove appeared to be taken out by the goalkeeper at 0-0. Devaney said: “I think that’s a penalty and it could have changed things. It wasn’t to be. That’s been the case this season. It hasn’t quite fallen for us.

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“Sam showed what he’s all about. He showed he’s a goal threat which is a real plus for next season.”

Cosgrove added: “I got a touch on the ball, the ‘keeper touches me. It’s a penalty. But they sometimes don’t go for me.

“We are proud of the way we went about our business but disappointed we’re out the play-offs and the season is finished. Trying to come back from two goals on multiple occasions against a team like this, you give yourselves a mountain to climb. We dug in and gave it our best but ultimately fell short.

"Recently set pieces have been a real issue. Here have been plenty of work. going on behind the scenes. But we switched off at the wrong moments.

“Congratulations to Bolton. I thought over two legs it was very even but they probably just scraped it.”

Devaney confirmed he is not a candidate for the permanent head coach role.