Steele spares thought for Peterborough amid euphoria

YORKSHIRE football was the big winner in Saturday’s draw between Huddersfield Town and Barnsley with all four sides of the ground resounding to “We are staying up” and choruses of “Yorkshire, Yorkshire”.

The Barnsley players carry their manager David Flitcroft after escaping relegation.

The thin yellow line of stewards across the 4,000-strong Barnsley end of the ground need not have been there after the final-whistle pitch invasion by home fans for all the two tribes wanted to do after a dramatic denouement to the season was hug each other in relief.

Barnsley went into the game in the bottom three, and Town trooped off at the break having replaced them. Their positions swung to and fro as Town equalised, the Reds re-took the lead and the hosts hit back again.

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It was not until stoppage time that the footballing gods put both sides out of their misery with news that Crystal Palace had consigned Peterborough to the drop.

It enabled Barnsley goalkeeper and captain Luke Steele to play keep-ball in his own area for the last couple of minutes as Town players backed off to halfway before bemused and powerless 
FA Cup final referee Andre Marriner blew his whistle.

It signalled a remarkable “great escape”, particularly for a Barnsley side who looked consigned to relegation before David Flitcroft took charge. But it left Steele with mixed emotions, although the overriding one was of joy.

“This has been the biggest challenge of my career. We were bottom of the league and people had written us off, but we never stopped believing in ourselves.

“Every single point we’ve scrapped for, every win we’ve earned, it’s been an amazing journey. I feel as if we deserve a trophy,” said Steele.

On another note, however, Peterborough-born Steele said: “I feel sick for them, it’s my home town and that’s where I made my debut, for them. I’m a Posh fan. It probably won’t make them feel any better hearing that, but I really feel sick for them because they’ve done tremendously well.

“We’ve been fighting it out all season and neither of us deserve to go down, but I’m a Barnsley player and I’ve got to do what’s best for the club.

“Al my family are back there and my niece was born there on Friday night, she’s called April. My dad missed his first Barnsley game (on Saturday) to see his first grand-daughter.

“I also lost my grandad two weeks ago, and he used to sit in the main stand at London Road. It’s strange how it all works out and I do feel very sorry for them.”

Steele felt uncomfortable being told to keep possession in the closing moments, adding: “Football’s like the movies these days and it wouldn’t have surprised me had Peterborough gone and scored again to equalise.”

Counterpart Alex Smithies, Huddersfield’s spot-kick hero in last season’s League One play-off final at Wembley, said: “Those last few minutes were really bizarre. I don’t think many people here will have seen anything like it, to be honest.

“We only really knew we were safe with a couple of minutes to go when news came through of the goals at Palace and Derby (against fellow strugglers Millwall).

“It was bizarre at the end with both sides happy to play out for a draw, and then there was the Yorkshire love-in at the end.

“I don’t think I’ve ever clapped opposing supporters like that before, but they were clapping us. It was the most bizarre match I’ve ever played in, without a doubt. It must be something about our last game of the season. This time last year we missed our first three penalties in the shoot-out against Sheffield United and still went on to win the play-off final and then this.”

One man who had seen it all before was Keith Southern, who brought a calming influence to Town’s midfield after being brought on at the break.

“We were down, up, down, up but thankfully we got the job done in the end. It reminds me of about five, six years ago against Watford on the last day of the Championship season. We (Blackpool) needed a point to stay up and they needed a point to get in the play-offs and the last 30 minutes was played in the centre circle, no one dared attack. It wasn’t that extreme (against Barnsley).”