AND then there were none.
The re-runs of festive classics from Shakin’ Stevens, Boney M and Slade may have only just begun and just a few token chocolates eaten from the advent calendar so far, but Yorkshire’s participation in the much-derided Checkatrade Trophy is over for another season comfortably before Christmas Day.
But while this competition has a plethora of detractors, you should not find too many at Barnsley.
Any doubters only had to view the Reds’ starting line-up for further evidence of that, with a fair bit kept in reserve on the bench too.
It is a competition with an umbilical attachment for Barnsley, whose Johnstone Paints Trophy triumph in their last foray in 2015-16 represented their maiden Wembley victory.
That glorious occasion in April 2016, played out in front of 25,000-plus flat-capped followers, was a Spring day that went down in Reds folklore – and it is the sort you cannot get enough of.
Unfortunately, last night belonged to those in blue – one that City, whose starting line-up contained seven Englishmen, will never forget.
Their number included young Leeds-born goalkeeper Thomas Scott, who made the only penalty save in the shoot-out to keep out Mamadou Thiam’s effort as City gave ex-Barnsley development squad coach Paul Harsley a victorious first-return to Oakwell.
It was quite a night for Scott, who made a spot-kick save in normal time to deny Cauley Woodrow.
At the finale, the celebrations from the fresh-faced visitors following the final successful penalty from Colin Rosler – son of former Leeds United coach Uwe – were something to behold and it would be churlish to deny them their rewards after they played their part in a breathless tie.
Pep Guardiola may have been otherwise engaged, but he could be secure in the knowledge that Harsley’s development squad side would adhere to the same La Masia footballing principles that were so integral to his own career which began at Barcelona’s famed academy.
Much like with Guardiola’s first-team squad, City’s greenhorns showed that same ability to make the pitch as big as possible from goalkicks and were similarly easy on the eye in possession – classically displaying the good habits the Spaniard demands.
Some will be fast-tracked quicker than others and it was the one player tipped by several in the know to be the next ‘cab off the rank’ in terms of sampling the first-team environment in Rabbi Matondo who announced himself just before the break.
Pace being the operative word regarding the Cardiff-raised winger – thought of so highly by Ryan Giggs that he was handed his first Wales senior cap at the age of just 18 last month.
The express speed of Matondo – reputedly City’s fastest player ahead of Kyle Walker and Leroy Sane – saw him steal a march on Barnsley’s defence moments before the break and after seeing his first effort blocked by Adam Davies, he tucked away the rebound.
It came moments after a wonderful one-handed save from Scott kept out Woodrow’s low shot when a second home goal would have probably put the tie out of the visitors’ reach.
Early panache came from those in blue, but the hosts – suitably affronted – produced their own exhilarating moment to take the lead with a stylish goal that Guardiola would have appreciated.
A quality move was finished off by Victor Adeboyejo from close range, with the striker netting his first goal since September 4 – in the Trophy win at Oldham.
Some uncharacteristic dithering in front of goal from Woodrow let City off the hook midway through the half, while Brad Potts was also off radar before Scott excelled himself.
The gravity of that moment was soon underlined when Matondo took the stage and it was left to Ian Poveda to step up and have his own moment just before the hour mark.
The midfielder cut inside before firing home a delicious angled low shot to put City in front, only for the inexperience of youth to soon turn the tie around in the Reds’ favour again.
Perceptive work from Mike Bahre set up Jordan Williams for a first Reds goal from close range before Liam Lindsay’s textbook flicked near-post header from sub Alex Mowatt’s corner restored order.
The action continued when Woodrow was rashly felled in the box by Iker Pozo, only for Scott to guess right and beat his powerful effort away to his right.
Scott’s second telling contribution proved as important as his first before the break with City soon opening up the Reds’ harassed defence again, with Poveda producing another classy low finish with Matondo at the heart of a lightning move as the visitors deservedly secured penalties.