Business end of the season.
We’ve already done something special and kept Barnsley up, but now we were flirting with the playoff positions. I didn’t believe we’d do anything, there were a lot of bigger teams around me, but I liked the idea of causing mayhem to the likes of Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham. We had SO many games in this final month, and one in May (hence why I have just bunched it on the end), 8 in total. The fixture list and intensity would cost us, and a few valuable players would be lost along the way…
We started with a home fixture against Wednesday, who were out for revenge from the first half of the season, and were looking to push into the playoff spots. In truth, there was no feisty derby. We gave away a sloppy penalty in the 11th minute, and couldn’t get back into the game. Wednesday showed no signs of doubling their lead, and the game faded out by half time. A 1-0 loss was devastating on the fans, many of whom took to twitter to slag off the “passion” of the team. It sucked. To make matters worse. Saidy Janko would then pick up a groin strain, putting him out until the end of the season. SAKE!!!!
We’d follow up with 2 games in quick succession, Cardiff at home, and Blackburn away. A confident 1-0 win was secured over Cardiff, but yet another ridiculous injury to my first team saw Adam Hammill, a player who had been ever present in our season be taken out, his season over. Thanks. No doubt this lack of drive on the wing was lost, and Blackburn would take full advantage, winning their game 1-0. The game was bloody boring. One of those games which frustrates because neither team can pass the ball. Anthony Stokes would grab Blackburn’s only goal, and we would manage only 1 shot on target. So far, this playoff push was going a bit rubbish.
I’m bringing sexy back…
No Janko, no Hammill…away to Wigan who had beaten us last time…I certainly didn’t see such a confident display coming. Wigan were rubbish. AWFUL. We found ourselves 4-0 up in the first 45, Winnall, Scowen and Maddison all on the score sheet (the latter on twice). Wigan would grab a goal back, but header from Farrend Rawson, we secured a deserved and incredible 5-1 away win. We shot up the table. We were in 6th. Oh my god.
We’d return to Oakwell with confidence, and show the same ability versus Brentford, as we ran out 3-0. Hourihane would score another screamer from outside the box, and Maddison would finally score a free kick, having not hit one on target all season. We looked good, and even in the next game, a disappointing 1-0 loss away to Bristol, we looked much the better team.
Our final home game of the season would be against relegated Burton Albion, and can be defined as “the Tom Davies game”. The midfielder scored 2, and set up a third in Barnsley’s 3-0 romp over Nigel Clough’s side. 6th place was now ours, but only if we
a) beat Newcastle on the final day
b) Fulham and Sheffield Wednesday played to a draw in their game against one another.
The bloody drama
Rafa Benitez isn’t my biggest fan, not sure why, but I’m not one to shy away. Beating Newcastle would be a huge ask…and Rafa was calling me names. Not very nice if honest. Newcastle though, had spent millions, and were rightfully champions of the league. They’d already won their trophy, but were out to end the season on a high at St James, and we were in no position to stop them. They were stupidly good…and 2-0 was by far a flattering scoreline to us. We lost fair and square, with our final league position in the hands of fate. What wouldn’t be in my hands would be Rafa’s hand shake, which I told the press didn’t happen in my post match press conference.
Amazingly…as I looked down at the rest of the results, I spotted Sheffield Wednesday vs Fulham…3-3. They had drawn, and then it dawned on me…we, Barnsley FC, the South Yorkshire poor boys with a starting budget of £800k, had secured 6th place, and would go into the end of season playoffs…