Report: Barnsley 0-1 Bolton
Neil Danns' strike in the last game of his loan spell ensured that Wanderers picked up all three points as they ran out 1-0 winners against Barnsley at Oakwell.
The midfielder struck the decisive goal shortly after the hour mark in a fiercely contested clash in South Yorkshire and despite a late rally from the hosts, the Whites held out for the victory.
Manager Dougie Freedman made three changes to the side which drew with Charlton last time out, with Zat Knight, Darren Pratley and Mark Davies coming into the starting line up in place of Matt Mills, Chung-Yong Lee and Andre Moritz.
The home side began the game with vigour, with Chris O’Grady & Jason Scotland looking dangerous for the Tykes inside the opening stages of the clash with the former flashing a shot just wide of the upright with five minutes gone.
Having found themselves under some early pressure, the Whites were slowly finding their feet in the clash with Joe Mason almost connecting with Alex Baptiste’s downfield pass, but the striker was just short.
It wasn’t long before Barnsley were back on the attack with O’Grady chasing down Kevin McNaughton’s header back to Andy Lonergan, but the Bolton goalkeeper was out quickly to smother the ball.
Wanderers almost stunned the home fans shortly after as Knight, Danns and Chris Eagles all enjoyed chances to hand Bolton the lead from Jay Spearing’s corner which the Barnsley defence failed to clear, but the latter blasted his effort over the bar to bring the Whites’ tirade to an end.
As the half wore on, it was evident to see that Wanderers were settling into the clash with Pratley and Davies proving to be a nuisance for the home side with a number of impressive runs, but the hosts were certainly still looking dangerous on the counter attack.
Wanderers looked to have taken the lead in the 28th minute as Eagles played a superb ball into the path of Pratley, but the midfielder was deemed to have strayed offside by the assistant referee, while Danns forced Luke Steele into a smart save just a minute later with his effort from distance.
As the half time whistle drew near, Bobby Hassell looked to have put the hosts in front with a powerful header, but Lonergan was on hand to palm his effort away and keep the score level.
With confidence growing, Barnsley enjoyed another glorious opportunity to open the scoring as Jim O’Brien unleashed from distance with just three minutes of the half left, but the Bolton keeper pulled off a superb reflex save to deny him.
Not to be deterred however, the Whites almost snatched the lead on the stroke of half time as an unmarked Tim Ream headed goalbound with Pratley’s rebounded effort being cleared away, while the home side enjoyed arguably the best chance of the half as Baptiste denied Peter Ramage from close range.
Having ended the first period high on confidence, Bolton began the second half in a similar manner as Danns flashed a shot just wide of the near post with two minutes gone while Pratley saw his effort deflected behind for a corner which saw Knight head narrowly wide.
After being penned into their own half early on, Danny Wilson's side almost stunned the travelling Wanderers support as Dawson powered downfield, but his final product wasn't enough to test Lonergan who pulled off a comfortable save.
With both sides in the ascendancy and chances going begging, Knight looked to have given the Whites the lead in the 59th minute with his towering header, but Steele was on his guard to push the ball over his crossbar, while Mason saw his looping header collected by the keeper.
With Wanderers undoubtedly on top in the clash, it came as little surprise to those inside Oakwell when Danns curled the ball into the top corner of the net with Steele given no chance at all in the 64th minute.
A lead which the Whites were more than worthy of given their dominance in the second half, it was one which they almost doubled as the on-loan Leicester man chased the ball downfield just moments later, but the Barnsley goalkeeper was out of his goal quickly to scoop the ball to safety.
The home side were visibly stunned to be behind, with Wilson introducing Paddy McCourt into the fold in a bid to find an equalising goal.
The Oakwell faithful were left shouting for a penalty kick with 15 minutes to go as Dawson went down in the area under the challenge of Baptiste, but Andy Haines was unmoved and waved play on.
As the clock ran down, the Tykes were piling forward in their droves with McNaughton being forced to pull off a superb challenge to deny Scotland who had only Lonergan to beat.
Wanderers did enjoy an opportunity to extend their lead and put to bed any hopes of a Barnsley fightback with six minutes to go as substitute Medo unleashed from distance, but Steele was equal to it.
It was all Barnsley as the game headed to its conclusion with Matt Mills thrown into the mix for extra cover at the back, but their efforts were to be in vain as Bolton held out for the win.
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