08 May 2024

Ian Evatt frustrated by ‘uncomfortable’ second leg but Bolton seal Wembley place

08 May 2024

Bolton boss Ian Evatt stressed it was “a lot more uncomfortable than it needed to be” after his side moved into the League One play-off final despite being beaten at home by Barnsley.

After winning last Friday’s semi-final first leg 3-1 at Oakwell, Bolton had their lead halved in the 36th minute by Sam Cosgrove before hitting back with a fine Aaron Collins strike and an Eoin Toal header in quick succession just prior to the break.

The second half then saw Barnsley punish the hosts losing possession as Adam Phillips scored in the 64th minute, with Cosgrove making it 3-2 on the night 12 minutes later to set up a tense finale.

The Trotters held out for the 5-4 aggregate win to gain revenge over the side who got past them at the same stage last season and set up a Wembley showdown a week on Saturday with either Oxford or Peterborough, with Oxford 1-0 up from the first leg.

Evatt said in his post-match press conference: “I think eventually I’ll get to the place of happiness.

“It was a lot more uncomfortable than it needed to be. The game was going nowhere, we’d done the hard part first half, we’d just had a massive chance to make it 3-1, and then just a crazy mistake gifts them a goal.

“Credit to them, they put us under enormous pressure. They’ve got nothing to lose, playing fearless football, and we have everything to lose.

“Eventually I’ll get to the positives. I’m more annoyed with the manner in which we conceded the equaliser. But I’m proud of players, because first half, (Barnsley) got the first goal and we reacted to that so well, got two great goals, playing some really good stuff.

“Second half we had complete control and a moment of madness has changed the momentum. But I’m just delighted we have managed to see it through.

“We were so confident and playing so well that it probably spilled into a little bit of over-confidence. But the players have done it, over the two legs we deserved to win.

“I’m not celebrating at all, my mindset is on one more game, and I’ve told the players the truth. Their ears might be ringing a bit but they have to hear it and understand that we have to make that more comfortable for everybody, and we didn’t and that’s our fault. But for large parts of that game, I thought we played really well.”

Barnsley interim boss Martin Devaney described it as “a hell of a game” and said: “We took them to the wire. Tonight we showed real grit, real character. To come here and put on that performance I thought was fantastic.

“That’s how we want to see a Barnsley team. I’m really proud of the players.”

Devaney was placed in interim charge after Barnsley sacked manager Neill Collins with one game of the regular season remaining.

And when asked if he was a candidate for the permanent job, Devaney said: “I don’t believe so, I think we’ll leave that to someone else and I’m sure the club will make a decision on that over the next few weeks.

“I love being a first-team coach. It’s been stressful these 10 days but I have enjoyed it.

“To the fans, I’m just sorry I couldn’t get us to Wembley.”

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