Huddersfield Town 2 Barnsley 2: Flitcroft is
focus of ‘love-in’ as survival 
is assured

NEVER in doubt, was it?

Jason Scotland celebrates his goal with the Barnsley fans.

A perfect outcome, everyone is happy – apart from unfortunate Peterborough United, that is.

However, the hairiest of white-knuckle rides imaginable had to be endured before both Huddersfield Town and Barnsley – in the Championship relegation zone on two separate occasions – reached safety.

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And only the most dramatic of late twists spared Barnsley.

Time also for a touch of farce in a surreal finale, with both sides effectively downing tools in “Fergie time”, mindful they were safe after Peterborough went behind in the 89th minute at Crystal Palace courtesy of Eagles captain Mile Jedinak.

The sight of the Reds’ goalkeeper and captain Luke Steele – a Peterborough lad – toying with the ball at his feet, in open play, for fully two minutes, with away players urging him to keep it and home players leaving him unchallenged, was bizarre in the extreme.

But all is well that ends well as far as both White Rose combatants were concerned amid scenes that harked back to the famous Germany versus Austria Anschluss game in the 1982 World Cup.

It was a day for 21,614 punters to savour and you can rest assured that the events of Saturday will be retold to grandchildren in years to come by many of those present.

But if the day truly belonged to anyone, it was Barnsley manager David Flitcroft.

Born and bred in Bolton, the 39-year-old will have cause to remember the day when he stood in the middle of a pitch and addressed supporters on all four sides of a packed stadium in Yorkshire and received the grandest of ovations.

He will forever remember the post-game huddle with his Barnsley players waiting for joyous conformation of that final score from Selhurst Park and the explosion of ecstasy which followed it.

Just as he will remember being given the bumps by his Barnsley lads who have bonded like blood brothers during his four months in charge.

A thoroughly drained but delighted Flitcroft – who spent time at the graveside of his late father John in Bolton on Saturday night to reflect on a remarkable day and journey – said: “It is mission impossible achieved. But it could only be achieved by special people –forget about the football.

“We have achieved something quite remarkable.

“Maybe someone was smiling down on us because you could see the effort we all put in.

“We deserve to be in this league, no doubt about that. The well-wishes I have had from many a great manager to say we have deserved it means people have recognised what we have done.”

Partying may have been on the agenda for thousands of delirious Town and Reds supporters, but just as Flitcroft looked in need of a good lie-down, so did Town chairman Dean Hoyle.

Fresh from cycling the highways and byways of God’s own county to raise funds for Yorkshire Air Ambulance, he witnessed 95 minutes that will have sapped his energy far more than pedalling 280 miles over four days.

With exhaustion came relief and happiness as Hoyle reflected on Town narrowly avoided veering off the cliff into a ravine labelled League One – and a horror re-run of what happened in 2000-01 when they lost on the final day to Birmingham and other results went against them.

Hoyle, whose Town side were plunged into the relegation zone on two separate occasions, encompassing 26 minutes, before hauling themselves level twice, dryly observed: “It was never in doubt.

“I was trying not to keep an eye on the other scores but my son said, ‘Dad, dad, Peterborough are winning. I kept saying to him, ‘Daniel, shut up’.

“But at the end, rumours came out that Derby had scored (against Millwall) and Palace were winning. So you think in the last 10 minutes, a lot of permutations have got to go wrong for us to go down. It means a lot to this club (to stay up).”

As is often their wont, Town did things the hard way after a dire first half when they were nervy, rudderless and second-best to Barnsley, with Chris O’Grady’s coolly-taken goal handing the visitors a deserved interval lead.

But the half-time introduction of Danny Ward and Keith Southern injected some badly needed urgency and purpose into their ranks, with the former supplying Jermaine Beckford for a quality 
leveller eight minutes after the break.

Alex Smithies thwarted efforts from Jacob Mellis, Stephen Dawson and David Perkins before an inspired change from Flitcroft saw substitute Jason Scotland head in from close range 16 minutes from time. But that advantage lasted just six minutes as James Vaughan’s shot deflected in off Tom Kennedy after good work from another home replacement in Lee Novak.

That looked to be that for the Reds, but Flitcroft’s braves found salvation, with a bit of help from Palace.

Game over, and the love-in began. In an era when rancid tribalism among football supporters is sadly the norm, there was the strange yet uplifting sight of thousands of fans pouring onto the pitch and heading towards their rivals in the away end preaching peace and not hate.

No bouquets of barbed wire as the John Smith’s Stadium was transformed into something resembling Woodstock for half an hour or so, with the thundering cries of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire” passionate, defiant and heart-felt.

All that was needed was a few numbers from the Brighouse & Rastrick and Grimethorpe Colliery brass bands to provide the perfect encore, with rival players embracing each other on the touchline and a blue and white scarf even briefly adorning Flitcroft amid the commotion.

Providing the final word, he added: “We talk a lot about football and the English element. But I witnessed something quite incredible and the Huddersfield and Barnsley fans need applauding. No trouble or drama, and as a Lancashire lad, I was proud to witness something special in Yorkshire.”

Huddersfield Town: Smithies, Hunt, Clarke, Gerrard, Woods; Clayton, Gobern (Southern 46), Norwood (Ward 46), Scannell (Novak 81); Vaughan, Beckford. Unused substitutes: Bennett, Lee, Wallace, Dixon.

Barnsley: Steele, O’Brien, Wiseman, Cranie, Kennedy; Dawson, Etuhu, Perkins (Cywka 85), Mellis (Noble-Lazarus 67); Dagnall (Scotland 67), O’Grady. Unused substitutes: Alnwick, McNulty, Harewood, Rose.

Referee: A Marriner (West Midlands).