MATCH REPORT: Wanderers reach Wembley after a nail-biter against Barnsley

Aaron Collins van Bolton Wanderers viert het eerste doelpunt van zijn team <i>(Image: Camerasport)</i>” bad-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/ 5365e698aad25aa37e8″ src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/ 65e698aad25aa37e8″/></div>
<p><figcaption class=Bolton Wanderers’ Aaron Collins celebrates his team’s first goal (Image: Camerasport)

WANDERERS are heading to Wembley after a night of drama against Barnsley.

Ian Evatt’s men are now 90 minutes away from the championship, but obviously they didn’t do it the easy way.

With the score at 2-1 at half-time and 5-2 on aggregate, there seemed little chance of a Tykes revival.

Aaron Collins and Eoin Toal had canceled out Sam Cosgrove’s opener, and it looked like things were heading in the right direction again. But the second 45 minutes proved to be an exercise in torture for the long-suffering Bolton fans, who had been nothing short of fantastic from start to finish.

Cosgrove scored again, Adam Phillips brought Barnsley back within a goal. The final moments were as exciting as anything this stadium has ever seen.

But the joyful scenes at the final whistle showed exactly what this means for a club that is now not only on the mend, but almost back to full health.

Unsurprisingly, Wanderers stuck with the same starting eleven as started the first leg, while Barnsley brought Sam Cosgrove back into the starting line-up for their top scorer Devante Cole.

Much has been said and written about the former Wigan Athletic striker’s history with Bolton, and Toal in particular, but there is little doubt that he is a tough customer and it was no surprise that he was the one to set the nerves in rattled the nerves in the 36th minute. in.

Wanderers had been the better team up to that point. Collins had one goal disallowed after Mael de Gevigney got into a real mess with his own goal and lost the ball to the Welshman who curled a shot past Liam Roberts. Referee Oliver Langford found that a foul had been committed.

Cosgrove had a penalty denied as he sprawled in the corner of the penalty area, Nathan Baxter having raced to the far end of his area to clear the ball to safety. Once again referee Langford remained unmoved.

Barnsley had little response to Collins’ movement and in the 17th minute it took a full-length save from Roberts to push away a goal on target after cutting past Corey O’Keefe.

De Gevigney then made a risky challenge on Collins close to goal, prompting another loud penalty call from the home crowd. Say what you will about referee Langford, he wasn’t going to let the noise get to him.

Most of the questions were asked by vagrants, but Barnsley’s need was great, and when the away match was finally packed to the rafters, the fans stuck on the motorway arrived just in time to see their hopes briefly revived.

After struggling to clear a long throw, Bolton was pinned down, and a beautifully chipped cross from John McAtee gave Cosgrove the chance to flatten two defenders and force the ball into the net, leading to scenes of joy in Yorkshire.

The next few minutes were the most nervous of the night. Santos got a bad touch, a few passes went wrong. The solution has been tested.

But then a moment of pure class from Collins, which showed exactly why the club pushed the boat out to sign him in January. Taking a few steps in from the left he crashed a right footed shot into the bottom corner to beat Roberts. and the tension disappeared.

The celebrations had barely calmed down when Collins scored on target again, this time fueled by an excellent pass from Charles. He was able to round Roberts but couldn’t shoot first time, which was ultimately denied by a brave block from Jordan Williams at the foot of the post.

Wanderers weren’t done yet. From the corner, Toal rose above everyone to fire in a header and send the stadium buzzing with electricity once again.

Close your eyes and it might as well have been El-Hadji Diouf who scored against Atletico Madrid. Call it the Reebok, the Macron, the UniBol or the Toughsheet, on a night like this there is nothing comparable.

Could Barnsley take things to the next level again in the second half? Well, no one told Luca Connell the match was dead. The former Bolton youngster remains an asset to the academy and a player who should certainly be operating at a higher level.

It was the 23-year-old who fired a shot just wide of Baxter’s post minutes after the restart to remind Wanderers that despite the festive atmosphere, there was still work to be done.

Thomason might have killed the game when, just before the hour mark, he unselfishly looked for a reverse pass to Charles, who fired his shot just wide.

Overconfidence felt just as dangerous at the time – and it may well have crept into Santos’ mind when he made a bad touch just outside his own penalty area in the 25th minute. The ball eventually worked through Cosgrove, replacing Cole with Adam Phillips. , whose shot then bounced off the Whites captain and past Baxter and into the net.

As in the first stage, the lack of concentration put a small question mark on what should have been a done deal.

With 15 minutes to go and with Kyle Dempsey waiting to come on, Wanderers went behind on the night. Maghoma had gone for goal only moments earlier with two team-mates for company but lost control, Barnsley changed hands and sub Conor Grant delivered a sumptuous cross for Cosgrove to lead his second.

Another heart-in-mouth moment followed when O’Keefe fired a dangerous free-kick straight across the penalty area. Cosgrove threw himself at it and De Gevigney could not direct his shot on target.

With nine minutes to go, Cole outwitted Sheehan on the left and swung home another dangerous ball – this time Cosgrove could not get hold of him. At this stage the seconds ticking on each of the large screens slowly began to slow down.

Five minutes of extra time were met with a guttural shout. If the players needed an extra shot of energy for their final task of the evening, it was there.

Could Barnsley go again? I think we all knew the answer.

Williams somehow found space to take a shot on goal that skirted a Bolton leg and fell inches wide of the post.

Grown men and women just couldn’t watch.

As the minutes finally turned into seconds, a clean Santos header was celebrated as a goal, as was a throw-in won by long-time campaigner, Cameron Jerome, who was now off the bench.

And then: the whistle. Que sera, sera, we’re really going to Wembley.

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