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Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers
For one final this season, Oakwell hosts the Tykes in what is their most crucial game yet. Having drawn 1-1 with Bolton Wanderers in the first leg on Saturday, Michael Duff’s have to carry the belief that they can secure their Wembley place on home soil this Friday.
A sure-fire play-off final against Peterborough United awaits, following the Posh’s 4-0 win against Sheffield Wednesday in their respected first-leg clash. Both teams have played Premier League football over the past three decades, and a place in the Championship next season is the next step in the long journey to recover their respected former glories.
Barnsley largely dominated the chances in the first leg despite Ian Evatt’s Wanderers dominating possession, but who will capitalise with the clash all square on aggregate? The Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers bet builder tips for this match come to a tasty 4/1 choice.
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One last time at Oakwell this season
The first leg at the University of Bolton Stadium was an entertaining attacking affair with both sides showing differing ways of hurting the other. Barnsley found success with striker movement in behind and by launching the long throw of centre-back Bobby Thomas into the box. Even if Bolton were able to deal with the first ball, the presence of long-shot specialists Adam Phillips and Nicky Cadden left them unable to relax. It was from a set piece that Barnsley grabbed their goal through a powerful Cadden effort on the edge of the box.
Pulled back level soon after however, Barnsley will be keen to hold and build on a lead for much longer should they get one in this second leg at Oakwell.
Barnsley team news
The return of captain Mads Andersen was huge first-leg news for Barnsley. The Dane is an influential part of the team in the centre of the back three and should retain his place for the duration of this Oakwell leg. Liam Kitching will play to his left, Burnley loanee Bobby Thomas to his right, and Luton Town loanee Harry Isted should stay in goal behind him.
Unfortunately, someone’s season is going to end tomorrow, one way or the other. There will be someone with regrets, whether it’s a mistake, hopefully it’s not a referee. That’s why these games are so good, because they do create tension, they do create nerves. They’re very often good games.Barnsley manager Michael Duff on what is at stake in their play-off second leg
The starting midfield five should be retained; wing-backs Nicky Cadden and Jordan Williams on either side of the trio of Herbie Kane, Luca Connell and Adam Phillips. The most interesting team news could come up front. Michael Duff has four strikers to choose from in James Norwood, Devante Cole, Slobodan Tedić and Max Watters, and uses all of them across a game. His starting combinations can vary greatly though. Top scorer Devante Cole should be fancied to start, but Duff may choose a different strike partner to Tedić who started the first leg away from home.
A tense night in South Yorkshire
It was pleasing to see Bolton respond quickly to falling behind in the first leg, but that Dion Charles goal was the only shot on target they managed in 90 minutes. It was not without intent from Ian Evatt’s side, who are the best ball-playing team in these League One play-offs, and did look to have success building attacks down the right and firing low crosses into the box. Aaron Morley had one of his weaker performances in midfield. Elias Kachunga didn’t do much to prove that he deserves the starting striker position alongside top scorer Charles.
The long throw of Barnsley left Bolton busy defending at times, and the Trotters will have to be wary of the threat Nicky Cadden and Adam Phillips can provide when they latch onto the loose balls from them.
Bolton Wanderers team news
Ian Evatt has leaked news that his team will be without two players for this second leg after picking up first leg injuries but hasn’t named who the two players are.
We’ve got one or two who won’t be available for Friday. But we have got a strong squad.
“It is what it is and we will just adapt and overcome. One of them was an impact injury and the other is more of an over-use injury.Bolton boss Ian Evatt on injuries
If it is injury in defence, then expect MJ Williams to come into the back three instead of one of George Johnston, Ricardo Santos or Eoin Toal. Josh Sheehan, Aaron Morley and Kyle Dempsey could retain their place as the central trio in Bolton’s 3-4-1-2 if available, with Randell Williams at left-wing-back and Liverpool loanee Conor Bradley at right-wing-back.
Bolton fans will desperately hope that one of the absent players isn’t top scorer Dion Charles. The 27-year-old will start in the front two if available, most likely partnered by Elias Kachunga although Dan N’Lundulu, Shola Shoretire, Victor Adeboyejo and Cameron Jerome are alternatives.
Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers Cheat Sheet
Dion Charles and Devonte Cole proved to be two of the more consistent strikers in League One during the regular campaign. A combined 31 league goals were shared between the two when playing for their respective sides, and both could be bold choices for a shot on target. Cole averages 0.84 shots on target P90 for the Tykes whilst Dion Charles is averaging comfortably over that for Wanderers in League One this season. Both are nicely priced for a shot on target and given they are the two most potent threats in front of goal on the pitch, could well be worth adding to a bet builder.
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Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers bet builder tips
Barnsley v Bolton Wanderers
If there was a hypothetical victor in the first leg, a team that had the better of the game, it was Barnsley. The Tykes had to sit in at times against opponents always likely to hold more possession but were able to generate more than double the attempts and five times as many shots on target, coming away with an xG of 1.77 compared to Bolton’s 1.59.
The long throw of Bobby Thomas, and the resulting threat that Nicky Cadden and Adam Phillips possessed when the ball fell to them from range, was a notable factor in this strong performance. Starting strikers Devante Cole and Slobodan Tedić stretched the Bolton backline with movement in behind. Luca Connell was typically lively in his deeper midfield role, and his set-piece delivery will be a weapon Barnsley will once again look to utilise in this return leg.
The Tykes can consider the first leg a relative success as they come back home without any deficit. Barnsley now play at a venue where they have won 14 of their last 17 matches, including nine wins in a row between the 21st of January and the 22nd of April. Their gung-ho, chaotic attacking approach is sure to provide entertainment and could be what books their place at Wembley against a Bolton side expected to be weakened by two unnamed injuries.
That gung-ho approach of Barnsley is in turn what could work in Bolton Wanderers’ favour. Ian Evatt’s side are the smartest ball-playing team in these third-tier play-offs, showing clear patterns of play across all thirds in order to progress the ball into key areas and build dangerous attacks from deep starting positions. Outside centre-backs George Johnston and Eoin Toal can play key roles in this, likewise attacking wing-backs Randell Williams and Conor Bradley who provide superb width and turn of pace inside the final third.
If met by a stern Barnsley rear-guard when dominating possession, Bolton have the ability to break through with sharp, incisive passing moments. In turn, the likes of midfielders Kyle Dempsey and Aaron Morley are capable strikers of a ball from a distance and can fire a dangerous shot through the crowd if needed. Barnsley wing-backs Nicky Cadden and Jordan Williams are much better known for their attacking qualities than their defensive qualities. If that Tykes back three is left exposed with numbers up the field, Bolton could capitalise against their chaotic opponents. There’s a good chance that with everything now riding on this Oakwell match, we could see both teams get one goal again at the very least…
Barnsley’s number 44 has had the season of his career. Son of former England International Andy Cole, Devante has had multiple clubs since breaking through whilst on loan at the Tykes back in 2014-15. His best seasons up to now remained double-figure campaigns with Fleetwood Town in 2017-18 and Motherwell in 2020-21, but the 28-year-old has always felt a player few serious promotion-contenders would have taken a chance. Back at Barnsley permanently in the summer of 2022 though, Michael Duff has worked wonders to turn Cole into the Tykes’ top scorer with 15 league goals and leave them up towards the top on the list of League One top scorers this season.
Cole’s pace and movement in behind make him a great asset in Duff’s gung-ho side, benefitting in turn from having a strike partner each game to share the offensive workload. He has featured in every league match this season, playing more than 3300 minutes and still averaging 2.1 shots per 90 in League One. The majority of those efforts come from within 18 yards of the goal.
If Barnsley are to progress on Friday night, they need goals, and who better to turn to for them than their leading scorer who is enjoying a season like never before…
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