While the events that unfolded at Hillsborough understandably made all the headlines, Barnsley welcomed Bolton to Oakwell having gleaned a respectable 1-1 draw from the first leg of their semi-final tie, and Michael Duff’s side certainly made their territorial advantage count.
Despite only boasting 33% possession over the course of the 90 minutes, a first-half Liam Kitching header was all that was required for the Tykes to seal a slender aggregate win and keep
their hopes of an immediate return to the second tier alive, although they were forced to survive an Aaron Morley free kick from inside the area fizzing over the bar after Harry Isted had handled a backpass.
In fact, that success over the Trotters ended an unsightly four-game streak without a win or clean sheet for Barnsley, who took just one point from their last nine regular-season matches in League One but still comfortably finished fourth in the standings, but the Tykes will no doubt possess the underdogs tag heading into Monday’s winner-takes-all tie.
Wembley is unsurprisingly not a regular haunt for the Barnsley faithful, who have witnessed their team lose three of their five games under the iconic arch – although one of their two wins came in the 2015-16 League One playoff final versus Millwall, one month after they had bested Oxford United in the EFL Trophy final.
If any fans at home had only just switched on the TV towards the end of Sheffield Wednesday’s semi-final second leg with Peterborough, they might have assumed that the travelling Posh army had invaded the Hillsborough pitch at the final whistle, as the visitors travelled to Yorkshire with a seemingly unassailable 4-0 lead from the opening encounter.
However, Darren Moore’s men proceeded to write a page of EFL history with an unbelievable comeback, forcing extra time through Michael Smith, Lee Gregory, Reece James and – in the eighth minute of second-half injury time – Liam Palmer, leaving the Hillsborough crowd in raptures and the Posh players with their heads in their hands.
Sheffield Wednesday’s fightback briefly looked to have been in vain when Gregory headed into his own net, but Callum Paterson sealed an incredible 5-1 win on the night to take the semi-final to spot kicks, where a missed Dan Butler strike proved telling.
On the back of that magnificent evening – which saw the Owls become the first-ever team to reach an EFL playoff final after losing the first leg of a semi by at least four goals – Moore’s men make the long trip south aiming to right the wrongs of the regular season, where an Easter plateau forced them to accept third place behind Plymouth Argyle and Ipswich Town.
That 4-0 reverse to Peterborough represents the sole defeat from the Owls’ last six matches – with the other five all ending in victory – but Barnsley did the double over Sheffield Wednesday in the regular League One season, and a fifth straight Wembley game without a win for Moore’s men would render their astonishing semi-final feats inconsequential.