COMETH the hour, cometh the man. In his first game back form injury - and with Barnsley having lost their last four league matches - Craig Davies could not have planned his return more perfectly.
The Reds’ leading scorer came to the party just when his team needed him, trailing Bolton away from home and in desperate need of something to savour.
And what a goal it was to admire as Davies’ thunderous 25-yard strike left Trotters keeper Adam Brogdan no chance as it flew in to the net via the inside of the post.
“It’s a good feeling to be back,” reflected Davies. “To come from behind against a team like Bolton, in a great stadium ... it was great to score but more importantly to get something from the game. I thought we played well. To get a point here is a great effort, especially because we probably weren’t expected to get anything.
“It was frustrating being out injured, but there was nothing I could do about it.
“All I could do was get on with it [my recovery] and get back as soon as I could.
“I’ve just got to try and stay injury free now and give myself as many chances as possible of scoring some more goals for the team.”
Davies’ 66th-minute strike cancelled out Kevin Davies’ 23rd-minute opener for the hosts in what proved to be an entertaining afternoon.
And if it had not been for a smart double save from Bogdan late on, then the Reds could have come away with a maximum haul,.
As it was a point was very welcome to stem a frustrating run of results which had seen the Reds slip down the table.
Defeat for Sheffield Wednesday at Nottingham Forest even saw the Reds rise one place in the table, a boost as they try and haul themselves back in middle-table security.
“I was pleased with the way we started the game, but I was disappointed with the way we encouraged the opposition by the way we gave the ball away,” reflected Reds boss Hill, who made five changes to his side for the trip to the Reebok Stadium.
“We should know better and as a result of giving the ball away in our own half of the pitch we set them up to counter-attack.
“Kevin Davies has scored goals like that in the Premier League, never mind in the Championship. It [their goal] was a bit of a gift.
“We looked a little bit disjointed after that, probably that belief in our early possession football evaporated again.
“But we got to half-time and the second half was encouraging. We looked a threat and ended up scoring and getting the equaliser. It was just rewards.
“We could have won it with what we did in the first 20 minutes of the game and what we did in the second half, but I’m relatively pleased with a point because it gives us something to build on.”
Defenders Stephen Foster and John Stones, winger Tomasz Cywka and forwards Kelvin
Etuhu and Marlon Harewood were all dropped from the starting line-up, with Davies back in alongside the recalled Jim O’Brien, Matty Done, Jimmy McNulty and new loan signing Marcus Tudgay who made his debut for the Reds.
And the partnership of former
Sheffield Wednesday striker Tudgay and Davies promises to be a good one on the evidence of their first 90 minutes together.
Ex-Owl Tudgay was unlucky not to score himself but impressed in his first start, linking up well with the dangerous Davies. “I thought he [Marcus] was brilliant,,” added Hill. “He’s not played much, but he’s going to get better and stronger.”
A lively start saw winger Chris Eagles curl a right-foot shot over the bar from an acute angle, before the Reds broke and O’Brien rifled over with a left-foot shot which was always rising.
had a deflected right-foot shot saved by Steele, while at the other end new man Tudgay tested Bogdan with a stinging long-range drive.
Davies was thwarted by Bogdan soon after and then Tudgay headed over from a lovely whipped in cross from Scott Golbourne on the left flank.
O’Brien teed up Done with the Reds on top and the winger saw his powerful shot tipped past his right post by the outstretched Bogdan.
But just when it looked like the Reds might make a breakthrough
Done turned villain and carelessly gave the ball away on the halfway line.
Eagles latched on to the loose ball, picked out Davies who had lost marker Scott Wiseman and, within a flash Bolton were ahead.
Davies shot wide as the Reds countered but the hosts piled on the pressure and Steele saved well from Ricketts and Eagles. Stephen Dawson got the ball tangled in his feet on the edge of his own box six minutes before the break and former Red Butterfield forced a smart save from Steele.
Butterfield then picked out David Ngog with an inch-perfect free-kick, but the striker’s header was easy for Steele.
The Reds showed renewed confidence after the restart.
Steele saved well to twice deny midfielder Mark Davies before Done lashed a fierce right-foot shot inches wide.
Then the equaliser came. Golbourne picked out Davies and the in-form striker did the rest.
Sub Keith Andrews went close with a glancing header before the Reds pushed for the winner.
Reuben Noble-Lazarus went close with a powerful strike which whistled past the right post and then Bogdan denied the forward with a smart block.