Bolton and Derby will be nervously looking over their shoulders at surprise Barnsley secret weapon: View | OneFootball

Bolton and Derby will be nervously looking over their shoulders at surprise Barnsley secret weapon: View | OneFootball

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Football League World

·28 February 2024

Bolton and Derby will be nervously looking over their shoulders at surprise Barnsley secret weapon: View

Article image:Bolton and Derby will be nervously looking over their shoulders at surprise Barnsley secret weapon: View

Midweek results in League One will have Derby County and Bolton Wanderers fretting over their returns to the Championship and at the same time, have Barnsley smelling blood after missing out so narrowly last season.

The Tykes lost in the last minute of extra time against Sheffield Wednesday back in May, which spelled heartbreak in the South Yorkshire derby; but they've made a decent dent in promotion bids this time around and are in the mix without a doubt, despite having played two games less than Derby.

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But a secret weapon they have in Adam Phillips could be the difference as his second-half-of-the-season heroics have really come to light in recent weeks.

Why Bolton Wanderers and Derby County will be nervously looking at Barnsley

Not only have their poor results contributed to their own downfalls, but Barnsley's upsurge in form recently has made for an extremely interesting three-way battle for the second promotion spot behind runaway leaders Portsmouth.

Two losses in two games for both Bolton and Derby have swung the door right back open for Barnsley to capitalise, and should the Tykes win their games in hand, they'll sit pretty in second and give Pompey a glancing shot to come for the title.

The South Yorkshire outfit have only lost twice in the league since the start of October and once since mid-November in a shock home defeat to Exeter City, and whilst they only climbed back into the play-offs at the turn of the new year, there is one man who has contributed to that immensely in Phillips.

The midfielder was a key part of Barnsley’s promotion charge last season, and though he and the team just about fell short in the final minute at Wembley, the consensus was that he would go again for the Oakwell outfit.

That didn’t quite happen for Phillips at the start of this season with zero goals or assists in his first 15 games of the campaign, and his inability to produce in the final third might have meant that he was disregarded by some as a threat with the promotion race starting to take shape.

But disregard Phillips at your peril. The former Burnley midfielder has been on fire of late; six goals and seven assists in just 14 league games - almost one contribution per game - has seen the creative midfielder roar back to life and become one of the finest players in League One.

Four goals and three assists in just five games across February will surely see him win the Player of the Month award, and as we approach the business end of the season, that could be extremely useful in the race for Championship football.

Barnsley's chances of automatic promotion

Bolton travel to Oakwell next week in a huge game at the top of the division, whilst an away trip to Portsmouth awaits on March 23. But beyond that, Barnsley don’t have many games against promotion-challenging sides, even including sides who are gunning for the play-offs.

They will of course be massively buoyed by events in midweek, with their promotion rivals both suffering huge hits to their promotion bids. Struggling Charlton took to Pride Park and beat the Derby away after going a goal down to stun the home crowd; especially so given that the Addicks hadn't won a competitive games in all competitions since late November.

Bolton, meanwhile, took part in a local derby away at rivals Wigan, though a Stephen Humphrys goal midway through the second half saw them collapse to their second defeat in three days to haul Barnsley back into the race.

With Bolton still to face Barnsley, Derby, Stevenage, and Peterborough away alongside Portsmouth at home, the Trotters have a tough run-in that is certainly trickier than Barnsley’s on paper - whilst Derby also have Bolton, Portsmouth, and Blackpool to play, which won’t be easy at all.

Looking at those run-ins, you could understand why the Oakwell support may fancy their chances of sneaking in to the automatic spots at the end of the season. If they do, Phillips will deserve plenty of credit.

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