Champagne celebrations for promoted Barnsley despite no title

Bristol Rovers supporters broke into a rousing late chorus of their signature tune of Goodnight Irene and, savouring the early-evening sunshine, their Barnsley counterparts could content themselves with thoughts of saying goodnight to League One.

Going up: Barnsley head coach Daniel Stendel celebrates promotion.

At the end of a week of celebrations there was no title toast for the Reds, who were metaphorically forced to sober up briefly after playing with 10 men in a second half that caught up with them, culminating in Alex Rodman’s stoppage-time winner.

But the party mood returned not too long after the final whistle with Barnsley handed the freedom of the Memorial Stadium for a love-in with their elated fans.

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The popping of corks and the medley of boisterous songs made for the most delightful of music.

In the middle of it all was head coach Daniel Stendel, tossed in the air by his disciples in red amid joyous on-pitch scenes and the Champagne that he subsequently drunk after it was poured into a trophy presented to Barnsley would have tasted like nectar.

The slavish Germanic pursuit of success may have meant there was a smidgeon of inward disappointment at not crowning his first season with the championship with that honour reserved for Luton Town.

Not that Stendel was showing it with the bigger picture displaying irrefutable evidence that his first campaign in England has been a masterful one.

Barnsley have never collected as many points in a season or registered as many clean sheets – 21 in total – in one campaign and were just three goals shy of reaching a century of goals in all competitions in an outstanding 2018-19.

The wait for a first title since 1954-55 will continue, but the numbers stack up irresistibly elsewhere and there was a runners-up trophy handed to the Reds in any case that was treated with love and care.

Stendel said: “After a long and hard season this is the success we deserve and I am very proud of my team and staff. For us to achieve this goal is a great feeling.

“I said before this would not be easy to play our best game after Tuesday. But we hoped we could win and we started very well.

“But it was very difficult after the red card. Some decisions were not in our direction, but it does not matter – we are promoted and this was the big goal. Congratulations to Luton, they deserved to win the title with their win. But we will see them next season in the Championship.

“We will celebrate, recover and then start new. I hope most players stay and we have a good squad and sign some good players for the Championship.”

Planning will begin in earnest shortly, but for now there is a bit more celebrating to be done with Barnsley to be honoured with a civic reception on Wednesday.

For those who headed to Bristol there was a mood of exuberance and, despite events transpiring against Barnsley on the day, the scenes after this latest stoppage-time loss at ‘The Mem’ for a Yorkshire side wholly contrasted with events of three weeks earlier.

That saw a giant nail hammered into Bradford City’s relegation coffin by virtue of a bitter 3-2 defeat, but there were rather less recriminations here.

An early Luton goal reaffirmed their strong status as silverware favourites, but the visitors here, needing to better the Hatters’ result against Oxford or exceed their winning margin by five goals, were soon in business.

It was a goal given to Kieffer Moore and while his follow-up header after Mamadou Thiam’s initial attempt was parried by Adam Smith onto Abu Ogogo before nestling in the net replays showed the striker’s effort had originally crossed the line.

Given his tough last third of the campaign after sustaining what looked likely to be a season-ending head injury in February it was fitting that Moore drew level on goals for the season with strike partner Cauley Woodrow – with the pair’s dual contribution to the Reds’ cause being inestimable.

Barnsley knocked the ball around with expression at times on a pristine surface, but Rovers displayed pretty of evidence to suggest they were not inclined to have their bellies tickled.

Efforts from Liam Sercombe and Ollie Clarke were narrowly off target and Tony Craig also went close before Rodman’s first decisive contribution arrived just before the break.

The winger escaped the shackles of Liam Lindsay down the right with the Reds defender, already on a booking, instinctively tugging back the Rovers’ player – with the second caution carrying an air of inevitability.

It had the makings of a rigorous second half even if the Reds were mindful that they had triumphed in adversity before in previously winning at Accrington and Southend with 10 men.

Adam Davies, potentially playing his final game for the Reds, underlined his class to make a fine double save to deny Callum Reilly and Alex Jakubiak, but he was powerless to keep out Rodman’s 71st-minute leveller.

Davies kept out the initial effort before the follow-up flew into the net via a deflection off Alex Mowatt.

Woodrow spurned two chances before Rodman netted at the near post – ahead of the serious business of celebrating beginning again for bullish Barnsley.