Wednesday 28 September 2016

Ireland's Conor Hourihane lifts Cup for Barnsley after comeback win over Oxford

Published 03/04/2016 | 17:59

Barnsley's Conor Hourihane lifts the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley Stadium, London
Barnsley's Conor Hourihane lifts the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley Stadium, London

Ireland's Conor Hourihane lifted the Johnstone's Paint Trophy for Barnsley on the famous Wembley steps today after fighting back from a goal down to beat Oxford 3-2.

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An inspired Oxford side had been great value for a lead on the half-hour courtesy of Callum O'Dowda, but Barnsley hit back in the second half, first when leading marksman Sam Winnall's header forced an own-goal from Cheyenne Dunkley.

Goals from Ashley Fletcher and man-of-the-match Adam Hammill then livened things up for the Tykes, who had lost an FA Cup semi-final at this venue to Cardiff eight years ago.

However, the U's set up a tense finish through Danny Hylton's header, and a crowd of nearly 60,000 were treated to some end-to-end football all the way through six minutes of stoppage time before the Barnsley fans could at last celebrate.

Both teams put their respective promotion aspirations to one side for the day, with League One Barnsley welcoming Winnall back from a hip problem as one of three changes while Johnny Mullins shrugged off a similar complaint to lead Oxford, who made four changes from their League Two draw with Cambridge.

U's boss Michael Appleton had expected a cagey opening, instead it proved quite open with both defences blocking out early shots, while Winnall sent wide an ambitious shot from range with the outside of his boot.

(left to right) Barnsley's Ashley Fletcher, Adam Hammill, Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall celebrate winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley Stadium, London
(left to right) Barnsley's Ashley Fletcher, Adam Hammill, Conor Hourihane and Sam Winnall celebrate winning the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at Wembley Stadium, London

Oxford's leading scorer Kemar Roofe had been under the pre-match spotlight - even his idol Thierry Henry sent a good-luck message through social media - but it was Fulham-loanee Jordan Evans who went close after 18 minutes, a 30-yard free-kick needing a good parry from Tykes goalkeeper Adam Davies.

Davies' opposite number Benjamin Buchel was also alert when Hammill fired a dipping shot, and that proved key as Oxford took the lead in the 28th minute.

Hylton's backheel allowed Alex MacDonald to whip in a superb far-post cross, and O'Dowda put the U's in front with a strong downward header.

Winnall nearly equalised for Barnsley but a volley from a long throw went narrowly wide, while Oxford threatened a second before the break from a string of corners.

Five minutes into the second half Barnsley were level as Winnall nodded in off Dunkley's head at the far post after a superb crossfield ball from the lively Hammill.

The Tykes looked in control as Hammill continued to cause problems, and 20 minutes after equalising they were ahead. Ivan Toney had only just come on as a substitute for Winnall but made an instant impact by helping George Williams' cross on, allowing Fletcher to fire home from close range.

Tykes goalkeeper Davies then did well to get down to a Liam Sercombe shot before Hammill made it 3-1 at the other end with 17 minutes left. The midfielder ran the length of the half, cut in and curled superbly past Buchel.

Just three minutes later Oxford had hope, as Roofe produced a pin-point cross from the right for Hylton to powerfully head in.

It set the tone for a manic last 10 minutes that was end-to-end, while Oxford's Chris Maguire earned the game's first booking for a heavy slide tackle on Josh Scowen, before Hammill took a touch too many on a great chance when set up by Toney.

And despite Oxford's best efforts at the other end, the men in yellow could not force extra-time.

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