Full time report on the JPT finalOxford United's Wembley adventure ended in defeat this afternoon as they were beaten 3-2 by Barnsley in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy final. Leading at the break through a Callum O'Dowda header, United were overhauled by their League One opponents, who went 3-1 up before another header, this time from Danny Hylton, set up a grandstand finish. Try as they might, the U's just couldn't find a third goal, leaving the Tykes to take the silverware and Michael Appleton's side free to concentrate on the bigger challenge ahead of seeing their promotion drive through.
It was a fine game of football once the first nerves were allowed to settle. After some initial sparring it was United who had the first opening of the game when first a Jordan Evans free kick was tipped over by keeper Adam Davies and then Chey Dunkley’s trickery came to nothing from the corner, despite a scramble inside the six-yard box.
Dunkley, skipper Johnny Mullins and young full backs Jonjoe Kenny and Jordan Evans did well at the other end, with keeper Benji Buchel making some good decisions to punch away crosses when required and tipping over a dipping effort from Adam Hammill after 25 with Barnsley’s best effort of the first half.
However, it was United who had looked more potent and on 28 they took the lead with an excellent goal.
Hylton, who ran himself ragged, chased a lost cause as usual, won it and back-heeled for Alex MacDonald who steadied himself and then delivered a terrific cross to the back post. O’Dowda, one of two local lads in the side, rose fantastically to get himself above George Williams and head back across Davies, giving the keeper no chance and making it 1-0 to the U’s.
Barnsley had looked decent on the ball and had the threat of Marc Roberts’ long throw whenever they got in range. One effort launched into the box on 34 allowed Sam Winnall to hook a shot just wide, but the U’s were deservedly ahead at the break.
Sadly it was all to change in the first 20 minutes of the second half as Barnsley stepped up the intensity and began to look like a side from a higher division.
The lead was only to last five minutes after the break and came in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Dunkley had been outstanding and he was being typically strong to try and beat Winnall to a left-wing cross on 50. In trying to clear the ball all Dunkley did was guide his header, at full stretch, past the helpless Buchel.
United rallied and the game was just as even after the equaliser but after 68 minutes the men in red were ahead. Fletcher flicked on a cross and Ivan Toney tried his luck on the turn. The sliding Mullins made a good block but the ball ran the way of Fletcher who poked his shot into the net despite the best efforts of Buchel and Kenny to keep it out.
It was now an open, free-flowing game and a great advertisement for this competition. Liam Sercombe powered into the box in typical fashion and had a shot deflected then saved, and the midfielder was then an inch away from a cross from the right as the U's threw men forward. In doing so they were inviting Barnsley to counter and Hammill exploited that when he carried the ball from half way and curled a delightful shot beyond the flying Buchel to make it 3-1.
Surely it was all over? Try telling that to this United side. Back they roared and on 74 they were back in the game. Roofe on the right, a well-flighted cross and Hylton twisted his neck muscles to power the ball home in front of the magnificent yellow Army.
This was a proper cup tie and the last 15 minutes of Johnstone's sponsorship were great entertainment. Oxford always score three at Wembley, could they do it again? Hammill had a shot blocked at one end but United forced corners, dominated territorially and defied the league positions as they tried to cause yet another upset.
Barnsley, the league's form team, held firm and were left to climb the Wembley steps for a famous win. United had been far from overawed or outplayed and were given a standing ovation by over 33,000 fans who had followed them from Oxfordshire.
A great day out and a good game of football. The serious football now comes in the form of six more games to try and secure promotion.
Report by Chris Williams, pictures Darrell Fisher, Steve Daniels, Tony Bailey
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