ON A sun-kissed Wembley Way, supporters clad in yellow and black quickly found themselves being serenaded by their Barnsley counterparts with the chant, ‘You only sing when you’re rowing’.
As the minutes counted down towards kick-off and the booze started to loosen Yorkshire sensibilities, the travelling hordes, many sporting flat caps, took the light-hearted chiding a step further by sitting on the floor, in true boat race formation, and heaving at an imaginary pair of oars.
It was all good fun and typical of the amiable atmosphere generated by two sets of supporters clearly intent on enjoying their big day out.
Mind, for the next hour or so, there were precious few smiles among the 24,000-strong travelling army of Barnsley folk as Oxford United belied their League Two status to take a grip on proceedings.
However, just like the Boat Race itself, showpiece occasions at Wembley are invariably more a test of endurance than a sprint for the line and Paul Heckingbottom’s men negotiated those initially choppy waters to gradually scrap their way back into proceedings.
An own goal from Chey Dunkley set the Reds on their way before Ashley Fletcher and Adam Hammill struck in quick succession to provide the White Rose side with what proved to be an unassailable lead as the contest entered the final straight.
Not that Oxford sunk without trace once two goals behind. Instead, Danny Hylton set Yorkshire nerves jangling with a typically predatory finish 14 minutes from time.
Barnsley and their noisy band of supporters, though, would not be denied a first cup final triumph since 1912 as Oxford’s hopes, ultimately, went the same way as their University’s own bid for glory on the Thames a week earlier.
Yesterday’s triumph represented some long overdue success for Yorkshire in a competition that has been played under various sponsorship guises over the years.
Not since Doncaster Rovers nine years earlier in what proved to be the last of the 38 cup and play-off finals staged at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium during English football’s exile from Wembley had a club from the White Rose got their hands on this trophy.
Considering the list of teams who have competed in the competition since then includes Leeds United and the two Steel City rivals, this is a long gap between drinks.
Still, Barnsley restored Yorkshire pride in thrilling fashion to join Doncaster and Rotherham United on the roster of winners.
Not that it was plain sailing all the way. Far from it, in fact. For most of the first half, Barnsley looked a pale shadow of the side whose season has been turned round in such scintillating fashion over the past four months.
Heckingbottom’s men looked overawed by the occasion, with little of their usual attacking rhythm and tempo in evidence. Perhaps this was to be expected considering just how youthful the Oakwell squad is this term.
Only Hammill posed a consistent threat on the ball and the upshot was chances being at a premium for the Reds during those opening 45 minutes.
Sam Winnall did have one early opening that he curled wide with the outside of his right foot. The striker also hooked a volley just past a post after Marc Roberts’s long throw had caused panic in the Oxford rearguard.
Those apart, though, the basement side were rarely troubled in that first half. Instead, it was the Tykes who looked unusually vulnerable at the back.
Jordan Evans brought a save from Adam Davies before Alfie Mawson bravely threw himself in front of a thunderbolt from Johnny Mullins to prevent what had seemed a certain goal.
The second of those efforts was a big let-off for Barnsley, but it proved merely temporary with Michael Appleton’s side going ahead just before the half hour.
A neat back-heel out wide on the right flank by Hylton left Aidy White exposed due to Hammill still being upfield.
Alex MacDonald collected the ball before settling himself sufficiently to whip over a cross that Callum O’Dowda met at the back post to head beyond Davies.
The response that the Barnsley hordes wanted finally arrived six minutes into the second half, Hammill’s inviting cross leading Winnall and Dunkley to become embroiled in an almighty tussle to meet the ball in the middle.
The Oxford man won the battle but it proved a phoney triumph, as his header bounced beyond Benjamin Buchel and into the net.
Ashley Fletcher put the Reds ahead on 70 minutes with a close- range finish after Ivan Toney’s own effort had been blocked by Johnny Mullins before Hammill provided a typically dramatic intervention with a stunning individual effort.
In a manner reminiscent of his second debut in a Reds shirt against York City in the Trophy just as winter was setting in at Oakwell, Hammill cut in from the left flank before unleashing a thunderbolt strike from 20 yards that Buchel barely saw, never mind stood any chance of keeping out.
Coming just after Davies had pulled off a wonder save to deny Liam Sercombe, that appeared to be that.
But, credit to Oxford, they refused to give in and Hylton set Yorkshire nerves on edge with a bullet header from a cross by Kemar Roofe to set up a frantic finale.
Marc Roberts, outstanding at the heart of the defence, then bravely denied George Waring with a header as the U’s fought to send the final into extra-time.
With that went any hopes of an Oxford fightback to send the Barnsley hordes home on a massive high and dreaming of a return visit in May for the League One play-off final.