We’re off to a cup final guys! That’s a bit special isn’t it for our first campaign in the top flight in 20 odd years. Truth be told, we are getting quite used to the place, Barnsley having been there now 3 seasons on the trot (The Johnstone Paint Trophy and playoffs before I joined, the Playoffs last season, and now the League Cup). February would see us play 4 matches, the last of which would climatically be the League Cup Final against high flying West Ham.
First up though, it was another trip to Old Trafford. Having met United twice last month in the FA Cup, I was fed up of seeing them. United were well and truly running away with the league, sitting some 12 points clear of nearest rival Arsenal. Mourinho had got his boys firing on all cylinders, and it would take something special to get anything from the fortress that is Old Trafford. Unfortunately for us, we’d not be up to the task, BUT that’s not to say that it was a disappointing performance. We’d lose the game 1-0, United leading through Ibrahimovic, but our performance was spirited. United had beaten Huddersfield 8-0 away a week or 2 previous, so to not get battered was decent, and to have chances was great.
As I’ve said previously, when looking at the fixtures, I eye up potential points tallies from games, and see what is achievable. United away, Arsenal away, and Bournemouth at home were difficult fixtures, and realistically I could only see 3 points coming from the Bournemouth game. Second in the league Arsenal would be as tough as United, but we caught them on an off day, and our defense stood firm to grab a 0-0 at the Emirates!
All the games against the bigger teams were, as Tony Pulis describes them “extra games”, and it was the match ups against fellow bottom half strugglers that really counted. Bournemouth were in this boat, sitting in 16th to our 15th. A point or 3 here would do us well. What I wasn’t expecting was what came next (he said in typical click bate fashion).
A very even match until the 24th minute, when Bournemouth’s Jonas Svensson received a second yellow for a crazy challenge. Que the Bournemouth massacre. Limiting the Cherries to 4 shots, with none on target, the Tykes racked up a 5-0 victory! Hourihane with 2, Rawson (who was playing Right Back this game following the suspension of Brice Dja Djédjé for one too many yellows), Azmoun (AGAIN!) and James McClean all on the score sheet. It was an impressive day. Sure, Bournemouth were down to 10 men for the majority of the match, but we played well, and the result was a huge shot in the arm going into the cup final.
I just want to say, before playing this game, I had bigged the final up in my head so much. I’ve had a rough time of it against West Ham, and I could already hear the likes of Karen Brady and David Goldsmith saying how easy it was going to be to beat Barnsley, and how great it would be to bring home the first trophy of the London Stadium era. Not on my watch you southerners. West Ham however were flying high, sitting and fighting it out for a Champions League spot, and this cup run was just another in their long line of good form this season. It was going to be tough.
Our line up saw Sam Morsy come into midfield over the cup tied Besic, but would largely remain the same one that had beaten Bournemouth.
I was bloody nervous. I’ve overachieved hugely with Barnsley, and this kinda took the biscuit, but I didn’t want to lose, now coming so far. Anyone putting a tenner on us to win would see themselves earn a tasty 80 quid if we did manage to lift the League Cup, and maybe the West Ham players knew this, and had a cheeky wager because…
Within 10 minutes, Danny Wilson, the newby from Rangers, was on the score sheet, a second header via Matt Phillips. Azmoun joined him 15 minutes later (and celebrated in front of the West Ham fans…I love him!). Then Matt Phillips with a gorgeous volleyed strike…then Sam Morsy with an awkward effort. Payet’s freekick in the 90th minute mattered little…4-1 on the final whistle. We’ve bloody won the League Cup guys.
I well and truly cannot believe it. It is a fairy tale of epic proportions. Then it hits me…
Oh bugger…we’ve qualified for Europe.