Saturday evening saw the first League One play-off semi-final, where Barnsley beat Walsall 3-0 at Oakwell, meaning they’ve all but secured a place at Wembley in the final.
Stranger things have happened, but it means that Jon Whitney’s men will need to score three without reply just to take it to extra time.
Barnsley looked by far the better side in the first half, with plenty of chances, but Walsall played there part as Tom Bradshaw flashed his shot wide.
They took the lead on the stroke of half-time, after Sam Winnall’s pass from the right-hand touchline took out multiple defenders, allowing Adam Hamill to convert via a massive deflection from Jason Demetriou.
After the break, Winnall was again involved as his double put the leg beyond doubt. Another deflection saw his shot from the edge of the box loop over Neil Etheridge in the Walsall goal, before a neat finished capped an amazing run to make it three.
It could have been more too, as the Tykes had a goal disallowed and a penalty shout whilst the score was 0-0.
Here are THREE things we learned from this game:
1) Lloyd Isgrove, take a bow
This is the Southampton man’s third loan spell, where he has featured 27 times for Paul Heckingbottom’s men without a goal. He previously had spells at Sheffield Wednesday and Peterborough, but broke through for the first time this year.
His overwhelming memory of his time at Oakwell may still yet be promotion, hoping to become the first side to win the Football League Trophy and the play-offs since Grimsby Town in 1998. At the minute, it will be this memorable game.
He didn’t give the Saddlers’ left-back Rico Henry a moment’s rest, and had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside. Furthermore, he could have had a penalty after a challenge with a defender, although the referee said nothing was doing. In the second half, his long run almost ended in a goal, but he couldn’t find the finish to take it over Etheridge.
When he was subbed off in the 84th minute for Adam Chapman, he was given a standing ovation by the Oakwell faithful. Today’s performance has proved that the Welshman could make it at this level, but that he just needs to learn how to do it more often.
2) Work to do for Walsall
There’s no easy way to say this to Saddlers fans, but no team has ever overturned a three goal deficit and progressed to Wembley. That is exactly what Whitney’s side has to do, and they know that unless they score four goals on Thursday night, the best they could hope for is a penalty shoot-out.
The closest to breaking that record that we’ve ever seen was back in 1998, when Northampton Town were 3-1 down going into the second leg, before they overturned it to beat Bristol Rovers 4-3 on aggregate.
Can Walsall create history?
3) Were Barnsley too good, or were Walsall that bad?
Whilst Walsall looked far from the side who beat Fleetwood 3-1 or Port Vale 5-0, all the credit for this result has to go to the Tykes, who looked sharp, and as if they wanted it.
As soon as these two were confirmed to be playing each other, we all expected a good game, but that Walsall will win in the end. Now, barring a miracle, that won’t happen thanks to the incredible strike force that Barnsley have and how they all performed on the day, whilst Walsall’s big guns didn’t.
Barnsley fans, what do you think? How good was Winnall and Isgrove today?
Walsall fans, are you confident of overturning the deficit on Thursday? Let us know below!