Barnsley FC 2 Bolton Wanderers 2: Last-minute penalty rebound breaks Reds hearts in play-off style tussle

Just when they thought they had automatic promotion in their own hands, Barnsley had it wrestled from their grasp in the 98th minute.

In a rip-roaring conclusion, reminiscent of a play-off game that the Reds and Bolton might yet be contesting in two months time, Neill Collins’ Barnsley blew a two-goal lead.

Comfortably in the ascendancy thanks to John McAtee’s first-half goal and a crowd-pleasing second from big American defender Donovan Pines to start the second half, Barnsley invited Bolton back into the game.

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After Reds old boy Victor Adeboyejo pulled one back, Barnsley appeared to have done enough, celebrating wildly when Liam Roberts, Jordan Williams and the upright thwarted three Bolton efforts to equalise in a last-minute scramble.

Barnsley's John McAtee opened the scoring against Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night (Picture: Tony Johnson)Barnsley's John McAtee opened the scoring against Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night (Picture: Tony Johnson)
Barnsley's John McAtee opened the scoring against Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday night (Picture: Tony Johnson)

But then in the eighth minute of eight added on, the otherwise cool-under-pressure Josh Earl got his arms around Cameron Jerome and wrestled him to the ground.

Given his performance in the second half, it was no surprise that Roberts saved Josh Sheehan’s penalty but as the ball squirmed loose Randell Williams reacted quickest and slammed the ball home.

Had they hung on, Barnsley would have moved above Bolton into third and level on points with Derby County in second, with a game in hand and the destiny of who wins the second automatic promotion place in their hands for the first time.

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That such a scenario is still within reach for Barnsley – who now trail the second-placed Trotters by three points with a game in hand – will temper the sickening feeling they will have right now.

That Barnsley allowed their dominance to slip was their own fault, retreating into their shell having gone two goals to the good.

That it took 47 minutes for them to establish the two goal lead was the only surprise, such was the complete control Barnsley exerted.

From the moment Luca Connell stung Joel Coleman’s fingers in the Bolton goal with a 12th-minute free-kick it was one way traffic.

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McAtee was the tormentor in chief, inches away from latching onto Devante Cole’s flick through before finally opening the scoring on 25 minutes.

Bolton were guilty of trying to play the ball out from the back and Mael De Gevigney managed to block George Thomason’s clearance which fell into the path of McAtee who stroked the ball into the bottom corner.

Cole was then millimetres away from connecting with a right-wing cross that would have made it two and McAtee again went close.

The only flash of Bolton resistance brought an acrobatic goalline clearance from Jordan Williams under pressure from Aaron Collins after Roberts had got a hand to Gethin Jones’ shot across goal.

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When Barnsley doubled their lead two minutes after the restart, there looked only one outcome.

McAtee was again involved, reaching the byline only for his cutback to be diverted behind for a corner. Connell’s outswinger caused confusion among the Bolton defence and when it dropped 16 yards out, Pines - the American defender signed in January from DC United - spun and lashed the ball home off the underside of the cross bar for his second goal in four days having scored in the 4-2 win at Wycombe Wanderers.

Instead of closing out the game, Barnsley instead dropped deep and invited pressure.

Suddenly Bolton had a sniff. Thomason drew a fine save from Roberts and Nicky Cadden blocked the Collins’ rebound.

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But on 65 minutes Bolton were given a lifeline. Reds manager Neill Collins thought a foul given against his side in Bolton territory was soft but the Trotters switched play quickly to Aaron Collins who slid the ball across goal for Adeboyejo - who spent four seasons at Barnsley - to steer home and breathe life into a game that should have been dead and buried.

Aaron Collins nearly had the equaliser when he capitalised on Williams’ tame header back at Roberts and then substitute Jerome headed wide at the back post.

Then came that almighty scramble which saw Jon Dad Bodvarsson hit the post from 12 yards and Paris Maghoma twice have follow-ups blocked, prompting Roberts and his defenders to celebrate as if they had scored at the other end.

Moments later when Maghoma was played through Roberts came off his line to deny him.

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Then came the last-minute penalty, Earl conceding, Roberts saving again, Randell Williams following up for Wanderers.

They loved a good play-off-esque tussle these two.