Thoroughly deserved progress in the Carabao Cup came via a high quality penalty shootout, as Wanderers finally won a cup game.
Joel Dixon - 6.5
Some wayward kicking at times spoiled a positive night overall for the ex-Barrow man, who got near a couple of penalties before a strong left hand denied Devante Cole, giving Josh Sheehan the chance to send us through.
He doesn’t have a great presence about him in net and kind of reminds me of Jordan Pickford, rushing out of his goal at regular intervals. Didn’t have much of a chance to showcase his agility and shot stopping, with most of Barnsley’s efforts on goal resulting in regulation saves.
A clean sheet and being the hero of the hour will be an immeasurable confidence booster for Dixon, though, who’s now only conceded a total of three goals in six games for the club.
Evatt has a big choice to make at Plough Lane.
Gethin Jones - 6.5
I always feel he does his defensive work diligently, and he needed to be exactly that up against a tricky customer in Clarke Oduor.
His quality on the ball tends to be hit and miss throughout a game, one cracking cross he flashed across the area illustrated what he can provide. But shortly after, as full-time approached, his wayward cross from deep after a throw-in flew out for a goal kick.
Some of his passes down the line, to Bakayoko in particular, hit their mark beautifully. Yet sometimes he doesn’t back himself and goes back to Santos or Dixon, instead of looking forward. The main thing is I feel he improves and is learning all the time.
Ricardo Santos - 8
A measured and composed return for Rico.
He was on the quiet, simply excellent. He was given a tough time by the brawn of Victor Adeboyejo, being rolled a couple of times by the burly frontman, but always did enough to put him off.
His passing was crisp and although we rarely saw him stride forward out of defence with the pace and purpose he often showed last season, he did everything you’d want a central defender to do. How won almost every aerial duel and led by example. Welcome back Rico!
Another tough one for our gaffer to decide who makes way for him on Saturday, as it’s clear to me anyway, he simply cannot be left out.
George Johnston - 7.5
Another classy performance from George, who almost capped it off with a goal after getting on the end of a flowing first half move. He was calmness personified as he guided Liam Gordon through the first half.
I honestly can’t remember anything that he did particularly wrong, and although he didn’t win all his aerial encounters, he still battled manfully in that regard. He seems to know when to play it safe and when to play out and the only blot on his copybook were a couple of early shanked clearances. I think he compliments Santos perfectly and is clearly the long term option at centre-back.
I turned to my mate at one point in the second half and said he reminded me of someone from years gone by. It was after he intercepted the ball for the umpteenth time and then put it out of play for a throw-in, as the Tykes’ press meant options were limited. I came to the conclusion he reminded me of Gudni. High praise indeed, and obviously a long way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath. But I see signs that he could be really special.
Liam Gordon - 6.5
An encouraging display from Liam, likely further cementing Evatt’s thinking that another deputy left-back would be an unnecessary foray into the transfer market.
I was quietly impressed by his first half performance, as although we were pinned back by the high press Barnsley have so ingrained within them by Valerien Ismael last campaign, he got out of numerous tight spaces with his burst of pace. He had some nice forays forward in tandem with Nathan Delfouneso, while he dealt well with one of a number of ex-Bury men in George Miller. He did seem to find plenty of space down that side of the pitch, with ‘Fonz’ neglecting his defensive duties at times.
The second half was tougher for Liam, as he gave the ball away a number of times and was also beaten all ends up on the byline by Tykes’ substitute Cameron Thompson. He managed to recover his poise to contribute to a strong climax to the game from the Trotters, when only one team looked like snatching the winner. His geeing up of the crowd after the penalties was heartwarming and showed how much he values this second chance he’s getting in a white shirt.
Good on ya Liam!!
MJ Williams - 7.5
This guy gets better every week at the moment, winning the ball with a snappiness and utter determination to come away with it that really impressed me. He hit a couple of sumptuous switch balls to Fonz on the wing, which hit their mark beautifully too.
His engine seems to have been enhanced since his change to a vegan diet and, as he alluded to in an interview with Marc Iles, he trusts his knee now after moving to a more specialised training programme. He looks like he’s probably playing the best football of his career, under a manager who trusts him.
Long may it continue!
Kieran Lee - 6.5
A much better second half showing from the one with the golden touch, after a pretty rusty first half display. Some daft passes into MJ, when he had at least a couple men around him and some misplaced passes were no big surprise, as he clearly struggled with the pace of the game owing to his lack of match fitness.
He came out for the second half in a determined mood, seemingly playing ten yards further up the pitch. He was instrumental in gaining territorial advantage and, by the time he departed on 79 minutes, had helped us wrestle control of the game almost completely. His experience and calm demeanour helped him recover from that poor first period, showing exactly why he’s still got a big part to play in this campaign.
Lloyd Isgrove - 7
Never gives his man a moments peace on the ball, stealing it a number of times from Barnsley defenders looking to shepherd it out or move past him. Put in some dangerous deliveries from corners and looked lively when switched to the left.
Will never be a huge goal threat, unless it’s in a game where we can play exclusively on the break, catching teams in behind. But he’s got a very specific skillset that Evatt clearly appreciates. I think he knows what type of matches and game stages that he can best utilise him.
An important player for us, whether as a starter or sub. Tucked his penalty away nicely too, sending Walton the wrong way.
Antoni Sarcevic - 6.5
In an attacking sense, despite an early chipped/floated attempt drifting just wide of Jack Walton’s goal, things aren’t really coming off for our captain. What he does offer, though, is a lot of unseen defensive work. Important blocks, nicking the ball high up the field and generally making a nuisance of himself.
He isn’t a box-to-box midfielder and you can tell exactly when he’s run out of gas, as when sprinting back to help the defence he struggles to keep up later on in games. But he’s in the side for his understated leadership, his goal threat and all of the above.
To get promoted from this league, eventually we might need to be bring in someone with a higher ceiling in this pivotal position. For now, Sarce is a worthy starter. And what a penalty too! Pick that one out!!
Nathan Delfouneso - 5.5
I thought that he markedly improved after a poor first half hour, when he lost the ball too often and had a rather neglectful attitude to his defensive duties, in abandoning Liam Gordon to deal with both of Barnsley’s right sided players. He eventually had some joy linking up with Gordon and latched onto MJ’s long crossfield switches quite well, keeping one ball in play very adroitly.
He was hooked pretty early in the second half and you could see straight away the difference of having, in Bakayoko, someone with real power and purpose out there.
Have we got better options for the wing? Yes. Is he ever going to start up top ahead of Doyle, Bakayoko or Kachunga? I’d very much doubt it. So he’s going to fill in as and when required, in roles that probably don’t suit his game. If we could get his wage off the expenditure sheet it would be tempting, but for now Fonz is a valuable enough asset as a squad filler.
Eoin Doyle - 6.5
Generally looked quite lively, I thought, making clever runs and winning a few flick-ons. These were, alas, mainly to nobody, as Barnsley pushed us back in the first half. He showed some strength I didn’t think he had in his locker on a couple of occasions too, when linking play.
He needs a goal and at least has proper competition for his place now. A little less confident in my prediction, as I think all of our other writers said too, that he will be our top scorer this season. But on the other hand, I’ve actually been reasonably encouraged by his showings thus far too.
Amadou Bakayoko - 7.5
(replacing Delfouneso on 55 minutes)
The big man is already a bit of a cult hero, and this 35 minute cameo only heightened a burgeoning love for the unheralded signing from Coventry.
His thumping challenge in the corner, soon after coming on, certainly got the crowd going. It was reminiscent of Super Kev in his pomp. Even if it ultimately just meant we just gifted Barnsley a throw-in! His skill on the ball is quite understated too, with some clever flicks and lightening turns part of his repertoire.
He looked the most likely player on the pitch to bag a late winner and rolled home his penalty with pleasing nonchalance. He seems to display a real hunger to his game and is a huge hit so far. Keep it up Baka!!
Elias Kachunga - 7
(replacing Doyle after 65 minutes)
Twenty five minutes for Elias, another who scored their penalty with aplomb.
He seems like a great guy and offered a threat on the left when he came on, allowing Bakayoko to move centrally. Liking what I see from this man so far!
Josh Sheehan - 6.5
(replacing Lee after 79 minutes)
Wasn’t too heavily involved after his introduction, as we had a lot of late joy mainly down the right with Gethin, Bakayoko, then Lloyd, when we moved him back to his natural side. What he did was neat and tidy and he scored the winning penalty with a thumping effort into the roof of the net. Nice little cameo from my new favourite footballer!!
Ian Evatt - 8
The right team picked, in my opinion, despite the fans clamouring for Dennis Politic and perhaps starts for homegrown heroes Brocky and Darcy. We needed momentum and progress in this cup has generated it. Seven or eight changes would’ve been too many.
Obviously, hindsight is a wonderful thing, as if we go out on penalties we’re probably bemoaning him not being a bit more adventurous in bringing on Darcy too maybe. But his substitutions definitely worked.
Big decisions for him to make at centre back and in net, for what will be a raucous atmosphere for AFC Wimbledon’s first game back at Plough Lane on Saturday.