REPORT | Barnsley 1 Wanderers 3

Charles celebration second goal Barnsley

Dion Charles struck twice to take his tally for the season to 20 as Wanderers secured victory in the first leg of their play-off semi-final, writes Pete Oliver.

Charles stepped up his comeback from a recent spell on the sidelines with goals either side of the break, rounding off a superb move for the first before coolly slotting home a penalty to make it 2-0 with his third goal in two games.

And after Barnsley had hit back through substitute Sam Cosgrove – and forced Nathan Baxter into two stunning saves – Randell Williams’ injury-time strike direct from a corner gave Wanderers a two-goal lead to bring back home for the second leg next Tuesday night.

It’s not game over and Wanderers know they have work to do to complete a victory that will take them to Wembley and within one step to promotion.


Dion Charles first goal Barnsley

But Williams’ goal gave Ian Evatt’s men a deserved margin of victory from a superb performance at Oakwell to aid their chances of avenging last season’s play-off defeat to the Tykes.

This time around, Wanderers were the dominant force with a high-tempo display which had Barnsley on the back foot for long periods.

Crucially, the Whites also got their noses in front to take control of the tie in front of over 2,000 ecstatic travelling fans.

That figure will be dwarfed by the Wanderers’ support at the Toughsheet Community Stadium when Evatt’s side will be looking for more of the same on the pitch and in the stands.

Paris Maghoma returned to the starting line-up after missing the season finale at Peterborough and the midfielder underlined his value to the cause with a key part in the opening goal 24 minutes in.

It was a lovely move in which he was involved a couple of times before delivering the perfect low cross the predatory Charles swept into the net from six yards.


Dion Charles penalty Barnsley

Maghoma went close to a second with an effort he curled just over the bar, while Wanderers’ threat on the break was typified by a counter-attack launched by George Thomason which saw Aaron Collin almost pick out Williams for a header in front of goal.

Wanderers had looked in control and that was certainly the case when Charles doubled the lead eight minutes into the second half.

Josh Sheehan’s positive run forward earned the spot-kick when he was upended by Liam Roberts after getting to a weak back header from Jordan Williams before the Barnsley keeper.

Charles was never likely to wilt under the spotlight and duly drilled home the penalty to reach 20 goals for the second season running.

Had a headed effort from the immense Ricardo Almeida Santos then been allowed to stand or Nicky Cadden not managed to block a Maghoma effort in front of goal, Barnsley might have been out for the count.

But with 15 minutes to go they suddenly had a possible route back into the tie. Wanderers’ back line had barely put a foot wrong but when they failed to deal with a free-kick delivered into the penalty area and allowed Conor Grant to pick out Cosgrove, the striker slotted home to briefly change the momentum.


Nathan Baxter save Barnsley

Suddenly Barnsley sensed an opportunity and it took two top-class saves from Baxter to keep out efforts from Tykes’ player of the year Adam Phillips, going full length to his left to claw away a header before again showing outstanding reactions to parry a volley.

They were pivotal moments and Wanderers took full advantage by grabbing a third goal to reflect their night’s work.

Kyle Dempsey might have got it after being released by fellow substitute Victor Adeboyejo but his attempted finish was blocked by Roberts at the expense of a corner.

There was to be no further reprieve for the hosts, though, as Williams whipped in a vicious delivery which flew straight into the net to repeat his last-gasp strike at Oakwell in March.

That equaliser knocked the stuffing out of Barnsley’s automatic promotion push and it remains to be seen whether it does the same for their play-off hopes.


Randell Williams goal Barnsley

The Tykes’ earlier fightback means Wanderers will take nothing for granted. But as far as the first leg was concerned, it was a job well done in the Whites' quest to move closer to a place in the Championship.

Wanderers: Baxter; Jones, Almeida Santos, Toal; Sheehan; Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma (Dempsey 83), Thomason, Williams; Charles (Jerome 87), Collins (Adeboyejo 87). Substitutes: Coleman, Iredale, Morley, Ogbeta.

Booked: Dacres-Cogley, Maghoma, Thomason

Barnsley: Roberts; Williams, De Gevigney, Earl; Connell; Phillips, Kane (Grant 66), Cadden; McAtee (Jalo 88), Cole (Cosgrove 66). Substitutes: Killip, Russell, Cotter, McCart.

Booked: Phillips, Connell

Referee: Will Finnie

Attendance: 13,846

Read Time: 4 mins