PROUD Barnsley head coach Lee Johnson was effusive in his praise of his side’s brave efforts in their Capital One Cup extra-time exit to Everton - with his Blues counterpart Roberto Martinez also praising their inspired performance at Oakwell.
Barnsley led the top-flight big guns 2-0 and 3-2 on the night before the Merseysiders, inspired by interval substitute Gerard Deulofeu, turned the tables to triumph 5-3 after extra time.
The visitors were afforded a huge scare, with goals from Sam Winnall and Marley Watkins putting the Reds 2-0 up at the break before strikes from Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith restored parity.
Dan Crowley put the hosts straight back in front on the hour but Romelu Lukaku ensured extra time by firing 12 minutes from time.
Deulofeu then provided his third assist on the night with the unfortunate Marc Roberts turning his cross into his own net on 96 minutes and Lukaku added a late fifth.
Johnson said: “I am very, very proud. Not just of the players, but the club, that’s what we are about.
“We gave everything against a Premier League side. Not just physically, but technically as well.
“I was so pleased for the players in individually getting their game out.
“I asked them before the game to enhance their reputations and that of the club. I think everyone would say we did that.
“For large parts of that game, we were equals to a really top Premier League side.”
Martinez also praised Barnsley’s efforts, with the Spaniard adding: “It’s a most important message to congratulate Barnsley.
“They were fantastic throughout the game.
“Barnsley were clinical and took their chances really well. They were young, dynamic and technically gifted.”
Meanwhile, Martinez confirmed that the club will reject a transfer request from ex-Reds defender John Stones, who lined up against his old club last night.
Stones, 21, is the subject of considerable interest from Chelsea, tipped to make a fourth £30m plus bid after seeing three previous offers rejected.
Barnsley have a sell-on clause which entitles them to 15 per cent on any fee for Stones, who they sold to Everton for £3m in January 2013.
But Everton are standing firm regarding their prized asset.
On the transfer request from Stones, Martinez said: We have not rejected it yet because today was a match-day and that was our priority.
“We will reject it in the morning (Thursday) and get on with our business.”
He added: “For a young man under massive pressure he was terrific.
“I am repeating myself but it is wrong for the football authorities to allow the window to remain open when there are important games taking place.
“The situation with John is very clear. We care about him, we want to protect him and give him everything we can to allow him to enjoy his football during this tough period.
“We’ve got great ambition for John and it has clearly got to the point now where, in football as in life, money can’t buy everything.
“That’s going to be a very strong statement at Everton.
“We want to build a winning team and so we want to keep our best performers. John is a big part of our future.”