Barnsley v Oxford United: Reds’ Alfie Mawson keen to avoid second Wembley heartache

Barnsley's Alfie Mawson celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match against Rochdale in January. Picture: James Hardisty.
Barnsley's Alfie Mawson celebrates after scoring the opening goal of the match against Rochdale in January. Picture: James Hardisty.
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WINNING at Wembley would provide a major spot of karma for Barnsley defender Alfie Mawson.

The Londoner endured a ‘gut-wrenching’ loss at the home of football in his final game for former club Wycombe Wanderers in last season’s League Two play-off final against Southend United - with the Chairboys heartbreakingly losing 7-6 on penalties.

Barnsley's Alfie Mawson battles with Bradford's Jamie Proctor. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Barnsley's Alfie Mawson battles with Bradford's Jamie Proctor. Picture by Tony Johnson.

Now, just ten-and-a-half months later, the centre-half is focusing on Wembley again and returns there with the Reds in Sunday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final against Oxford United where he will be seeking to exorcise a ghost, readily admitting that he just cannot contemplate losing again.

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He said: “I am very lucky because I have got a second Wembley appearance in a year. But I am not taking anything granted; I want to win.

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“It is obviously nice to say I am going to play at Wembley again and not a lot of people get that in their career and I am very grateful.

“But I don’t see nothing of value (if we don’t win) and it is genuinely just another game.

“There’s going to be way more fans and it is going to be a lot more build up, but until we win I am not celebrating nothing.”

He added: “Losing at Wembley is not nice and gut-wrenching.

“Playing there is a feeling you can’t really describe. Last year, I remember talking to one of my centre-half partners and said to him: ‘Do you remember when you were young and played ‘World Cup Wembleys? - in about a month’s time, you will be playing in front of all those fans for real.’

“You can’t complain, we are all really looking forward to it. But hopefully we will get that win because I cannot deal with another loss, to be honest.”

Through hardened experience, only victory in Sunday’s showpiece will provide redemption for Mawson, who says that mindset fully explains why his celebrations were rather more muted than his team-mates after the northern final shoot-out win at Fleetwood in February.

Mawson said: “After the Fleetwood second leg, I watched it back and everyone went mad and I just walked over to certain players and shook their hands; there was a bit of a delayed reaction from me.

“That wasn’t neccessarily because I wasn’t excited, but I think it was more because of last year, I lost at Wembley.

“It will be a tick-off if we get the win and I want a bit of silverware, to be honest.”