Bolton 2 Barnsley 3 - Wanderers win 5-4 on aggregate - Reds stage their own version of Phoenix night - but no Wembley despite victory in League One play-off second leg

IN the hometown of funnyman Peter Kay, Barnsley needed an award-winning episode of Phoenix Nights to extend their season.

They did produce a contender in fairness and their record of never having been beaten in an away play-off leg has extended to six matches and remains proudly intact.

It wasn’t much of a laugh for Bolton Wanderers late on, but they grabbed their ticket to Wembley. Just.

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Trailing 2-1 at the break after conceding two goals ahead of the interval, Barnsley’s season looked all over bar the shouting.

Barnsley's Sam Cosgrove (left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One play-off, semi-final, second leg match at Bolton. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.Barnsley's Sam Cosgrove (left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One play-off, semi-final, second leg match at Bolton. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.
Barnsley's Sam Cosgrove (left) celebrates scoring their side's third goal of the game during the Sky Bet League One play-off, semi-final, second leg match at Bolton. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA Wire.

In fairness, they went down fighting. Adam Phillips’ 12th goal of the campaign restored parity on the night on 64 minutes.

Twelve minutes later, Cosgrove’s second of the game put the Reds ahead and just one behind on aggregate.

It took his tally in two play-off games to three goals and equalled his tally in the league season. The play-offs do funny things.

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Barnsley gave Wanderers an almighty scare but it was not to be. But after a rotten, unsatisfactory end to the campaign, there was heart on show.

Barnsley took their goals total for the season past the century mark. Interim head coach Martin Devaney spoke of deriving hope from Sheffield Wednesday’s second leg exploits late last season.

It wasn’t at those levels, but his side had a go in the final half hour for sure on what was a bit of a bonkers night in truth.

Leading 1-0 on the night thanks to Cosgrove’s second goal of the tie on 37 minutes, Barnsley had things where they wanted for the first time in this semi-final. Sadly, it was all too brief. Their control lasted all of six minutes.

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They threw it away in reprehensible fashion at the end of the first half in a few mad minutes. It was symptomatic of their ills in a painful last end to the season. They came into the tie on the back of an eight-match winless sequence, having also lost their last four away matches.

The evidence at the end of the half showed just why.

Aaron Collins’ leveller was a cracker. But the inability to close him down and let him get a free shot on goal, which flew past Liam Roberts, was desperately poor.

It got worse. A Josh Sheehan corner wasn’t cleared and Eoin Toal was left with a free header from a few yards out as the Reds’ abject inability to defend from set-plays was again exposed by Wanderers, who had feasted at the death at Oakwell.

On this night, It provided a double dose of relief after a bout of nerves shortly beforehand.

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Barnsley’s defence were magnificent in the semi-final leg at Bolton 12 months ago. The reverse applied this time around.

Before his goal, Collins, who put himself about and moved across the line with intelligence caused problems as did Paris Maghoma, a clever operator in midfield.

An accident on the M62 ensured that a number of the Reds’ 2,000-strong travelling support arrived late, but they did not miss much early on.

Liam Roberts had to be alert to keep out Collins’s cross-shot after the ball broke for the striker, who saw a goal ruled out for a push on Mael de Gevigney as the hosts made the better start.

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Luca Connell, jeered on his return to Bolton, fired a tame shot at Baxter, with Bolton showing the early tempo, roared on by raucous Boltonians.

How Barnsley needed something and there was a couple of palpitations among home fans when Cosgrove, handed a start ahead of Cole, went down under pressure from Baxter, who had raced out of goal. It looks clumsy from the ex-Hull custodian, but referee Oliver Langford was not interested.

Baxter then held Adam Phillips’ effort from distance, before Collins again announced himself, doing well after cutting in from the right with his goalbound strike tipped away by Roberts.

Barnsley needed something to revive themselves and they got it - and then wasted it.

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Cosgrove’s goal came when De Gevigney’s long throw was not cleared. The ball fell to John McAtee and the striker - from nearby Walkden - delivered a lively dink from the right which was nodded in from right on the goalline by Cosgrove.

And then Barnsley messed it up and how. Behind 5-2 on aggregate, then needed something astonishing in the second period. It nearly happened.

Connell fired an early effort wide before Dion Charles spurned a chance to seal the deal after Bolton cashed in on poor play from De Gevigney, who gifted the ball to Bolton with Collins finding George Thomason, who unselfishly found Charles when he could have gone alone.

Barnsley punished that profligacy at the other end.

The visitors made a triple change a few minutes past the hour mark with Devante Cole, Conor Grant and Barry Cotter entering the fray.

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Cole soon was involved in the leveller, finding Cosgrove and he spotted the run of the untracked Phillips, who was given too much space down the right channel before seeing his shot fly into the net via a deflection off Ricardo Santos.

It was suddenly Bolton’s turn to creak at the back and the narrative that shifted in an even bigger way.

Grant’s astute cross picked out Cosgrove, whose clever header beat Baxter.

Wanderers were wobbling with De Gevigney firing over before Cosgrove almost got his hat-trick chance after good play from Cole.

The final whistle was relieving for Bolton.

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Bolton Wanderers: Baxter; Jones, Santos, Toal; Dacres-Copley, Maghoma (Dempsey 76), Sheehan, Thomason, R Williams; Collins (Adeboyejo 80), Charles (Jerome 80). Unused substitutes: Coleman, Iredale, Morley, Ogbeta.

Barnsley; Roberts; J Williams, De Gevigney, Earl; O’Keeffe, Phillips, Connell, Kane (Grant 62), Cadden (Cotter 62); Cosgrove, McAtee (Cole 62). Unused substitutes: Killip, Russell, Jalo, McCart.

Referee: O Langford (West Midlands).

Attendance: 24,518

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