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TYKES BLOG: 4 up’s and 1 down from Bolton 1-2 Barnsley

Que Sera Sera, whatever will be, will be we are going to Wembley, Que Sera Sera” No I haven’t completely lost my mind but it is nice to be able to sing the old song as we applauded the reds off a wet pitch at Bolton yesterday. Into the 2nd round, one step nearer a possible “big team” hopefully at Oakwell. 

Looking back on the 2-1 away win at the University of Bolton Stadium I have come up with another summary of 4 up`s and 1 down which was the same title of last week’s blog but again there are similarities between the two performances.  

Reds look more balanced in a 3-5-2 formation

As with last week against Forest Green, we looked far more balanced setting up with a 3-5-2 formation pushing Jordan Williams and Nicky Cadden up the flanks more. The three central defenders of Kitching, Andersen & Edwards have become a real defensive unit with praise going to Kitching who looks comfortable on the left side of three and to Edwards who as a right sided central defender has slotted in well and gives us real solidity at the back.

Without the ball, Cadden and Williams drop in to make it five at the back offering even more protection for the goalkeeper. Dropping a forward for an extra midfielder also beefs up the reds in the centre of the park. It appears that Barnsley operate better in the middle with a combination of just two from Kane, Benson and Connell.

When trying to play all three at once, it appears to restrict the reds as Kane and Benson are too similar type of players. Yesterday, Kane and Connell worked well together and both saw plenty of the ball and both put a real shift in. Kane`s distribution is still an issue but I`ll come onto that. 

In the last two games that the reds have lined up in 3-5-2 with Cadden has swinging in many more crosses with that trusted left foot which has tested the opposition with regularity. The reds opening goal came from Cadden being further up the pitch where his crosses can hurt teams and his cross caused problems for Santos who put the ball into his own net. More of the same please Nicky. 

Credit: Barnsley FC

Defensively strong

As I have mentioned, the back three of Kitching, Andersen and Edwards have been a consistently strong outfit together. We all know how good Andersen is, some would argue one of the best defenders in the league right now. 

Edwards took time to settle in but appears to have found his best position. He offers more protection than Williams in that role, but Williams is more of a threat going forward than Edwards so the current system of Williams being higher up the pitch suits the reds.

Williams has the energy to take on defenders and proof of this has been how he has been involved in two goals in the last two games since returning from injury. Williams also has the energy to get back and slot into a back five when Barnsley do not have the ball. 

In the pre match warm up, Michael Duff was putting the back three through their paces doing aerial drills with all three working in a line like they were the famous Arsenal back four or in the queue at the job centre in the film The Full Monty. Barnsley faced a lot of crosses and long balls into the box yesterday and all that work paid off as Kitching and Andersen won most of those duals. 

Liam Kitching had his doubters last season but he wasn’t the only player performing poorly and looking out of his depth. To be fair to him, he has knuckled down and has found his best position on the left. His ability to gallop forward with the ball and spray 40 to 50 yard diagonal passes means he has more to his game than just putting his head in where it hurts. 

Once again Kitching was comfortable hitting a long diagonal pass to Williams on the right who then set up Phillips who hit a beauty into the Bolton net. One area where Kitching needs to address is his discipline or lack of it. Whilst fans love a player who gets stuck in, he needs to be careful as he picks up yellow cards with regularity. Another needless one yesterday but otherwise a great performance from all three central defenders. 

Tedic and Cole could be a new partnership

It was good to see Slobodan Tedic get some game time on the back of his good 12 minute cameo last week against Forest Green Rovers.

It is fair to say that Duff has not yet stumbled upon a true striking partnership. Whilst Cole is much improved this season, Norwood can be inconsistent as can be Jack Aitchison. Fabio Jalo at 16 is untested at League One level and rightly so is being eased into the first team. So there is an opportunity for a striker to nail down a regular place within the side especially now Norwood is out with an injury for four weeks. 

The two big men combined well throughout with both happy to get the ball into feet and run at the Bolton defence. We are used to Cole turning and running at defenders, something he continued to do yesterday but the pair were up for the physical duels too being happy to wrestle against the likes of Santos.

Sadly, the referee got many calls wrong in penalising Cole and Tedic in those situations. Despite a lack of minutes playing together as a front two, I liked the look of Cole and Tedic as our forward partnership. 

Credit: BBC

Final ball lacking

If there was a slight grumble from yesterday it was that our final ball was often found wanting when hitting Bolton on a counter attack. In the second half especially, the reds found themselves in good positions sometimes outnumbering the hosts but a sloppy pass from Connell or especially Kane meant possession was lost and another chance to wrap the game up had passed us by. 

It wasn’t just the two central midfielders, plenty in red failed to find the right ball in good positions which would have put Cole, Tedic, Phillips or Martin into a one on one with the goalkeeper. Just like last week the reds should have made the scoreline far more convincing but given how well our defence played we got away with it. We may not be so lucky, especially against better opposition.   

Team spirit

The final word has to go to Michael Duff and the spirit he has instilled into his side in the short space of time he has been at Oakwell. Not only is it great to see him supporting & congratulating his players from the touchine everytime they do something good but he isn’t afraid to stand up to opposing managers like yesterday and the arrogant Ian Evatt. 

Evatt was getting more frustrated as the game went on and had to be spoken to by the referee for one outburst over whether the ball went out on the touchline or not. At the final whistle Evatt and Duff had words as they walked onto the pitch and Duff stood his ground on Evatt`s manor. 

The sound of Reds fans singing his song had Duff walk away from Evatt and come over to join in with the celebrations leaving Evatt in a huff. It is no wonder there is a real spirit in the side when you see how Duff operates with his players.

An arm around one, clapping and supporting challenges throughout the game and even the way he interacted pre match with the defenders in their drills all shows how he builds trust in the players. For long periods Barnsley faced long balls, high crosses and had to dig in when Bolton pulled a goal back and their fans awoke from their slumber. Yet the reds managed the last ten minutes and the seven minutes of injury time well. Hopefully this spirit can continue within the squad.  

Que Sera Sera.

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