Sheffield Wednesday Seal Promotion With Incredible Last-Gasp Win Over Barnsley

The League One Play-Off Final was settled in spectacular circumstances
17:45, 29 May 2023

Sheffield Wednesday have been promoted to the Championship after beating Barnsley 1-0 at Wembley Stadium in the League One Play-Off Final. A spectacular moment of inspiration from Josh Windass in added time after half an hour of extra time took the Owls back to the second tier. It was a wild, unforgettable finish to what had been a tense, bitty game.

The first half was cagey and scrappy, with both teams looking nervous. Considering the weight of the occasion, perhaps that was to be expected. Lee Gregory had an early header well-held by Harry Isted. Barry Bannan fired in a firm volley but saw it headed away by Bobby Thomas. Isted was called into action again to deny a lunging Dominic Iorfa strike.


At the other end, Manchester City loanee Slobodan Tedic cushioned a header to Adam Phillips. The midfielder sent his shot high, wide and handsome. A corner spilled out to Nickey Cadden, who sent another one over the bar while Bobby Thomas headed over from a corner. The shooting was erratic from both sides as this League One Play-Off Final struggled to settle. 

Half time brought a concussion substitution as Tedic was replaced by James Norwood. The bad news got even worse four minutes into the half when Phillips was given a straight red card. An out of control lunge on Gregory saw VAR utilised, an unfamiliar feeling for these League One players. The tackle wasn’t hugely damaging but Phillips was late and out of control and the card was upheld. If Barnsley were to complete their ascent to the Championship, they would have to do it with ten men.

They almost scored immediately following the dismissal, as a Cadden strike was headed on by Liam Kitching, cannoning off the crossbar. It was a wonderful piece of improvisation from the defender, as Cadden’s shot was going wide initially.

At the other end, Bannan engineered a move that almost ended with a goal. Playing a one-two to make space for himself in the box, he sent his strike over the bar. Barnsley once again fired back though, Cadden bursting into the Owls box before having his shot saved by Cameron Dawson.

Wednesday took control after that frenetic period, dominating possession. They nearly made it tell through Josh Windass, but the 29-year-old dragged his shot wide. Barnsley tried to counter this loss of impetus with a series of substitutions. Cole made way for Luke Thomas while Josh Benson was brought on for Herbie Kane. The changes would see Barnsley shift to playing with one striker, as they aimed to shore things up and see it through to extra time.

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Wednesday boss Darren Moore shuffled his deck too, bringing Will Vaulks on for Callum Patterson. Changes were proving necessary as the draining Wembley pitch and the baking heat began to take their toll. 

Perhaps the best chance of the half fell to Norwood. A ball into the right channel saw him fight off a couple of challenges before firing a rumbling shit on goal. Dawson somehow reacted in a flash and punched it over in a blistering piece of goalkeeping quality. This would be the last time the game ever truly looked like wrapping up in the regulation 90 minutes. Extra time would follow. 

Bannan went agonisingly close at the onset of extra time. A corner was nodded into his path by Marvin Johnson and the midfielder sent a fizzing shot over the bar. Given everything he means to this club, there was a sense of anticipation every time Bannan had one of these chances. An appropriate possible hero on a day like this.

Isted once again put in some heroics to inconceivably keep it 0-0. A cross flicked up into the path of Michael Smith. A point blank shot was subject to an incredible reaction stop from the on-loan Luton Town goalkeeper. Not the first Hatters-related miracle this stadium has seen over the past week. Then Johnson had a cross cleared as Wednesday continued to knock on the Barnsley door.

Isted once again pulled out a moment of inspiration as Bannan had another shot from distance. A deflection made it tougher on the keeper but he maintained the hardest-fought clean sheet of his career. Then an electric Barnsley break saw Kitching find Thomas, before Luca Connell missed what can only be described as an absolute sitter. 

Vaulks sent Wembley into absolute raptures when he hammered the ball into the top corner of Isted’s well-guarded net from a Jack Hunt centre. But the initial ball out wide to Hunt was adjudged offside and despite Vaulks’ spectacular backflip celebration and the wild team-wide celebrations, the goal was correctly chalked off. Perhaps the best disallowed goal and subsequent celebration this ground has ever seen.

Bannan’s afternoon ended after a venomous shot was saved by Isted. The club hero injured himself while taking the shot on and was replaced by Fisayo Dele-Bashiru. The captain would have to watch his beloved club’s fate decided from the sidelines. But just when penalties looked like an absolute inevitability, Josh Windass popped up to send Sheffield Wednesday to the Championship. With 33 minutes on the clock, in the absolute last gasp of last gasp periods, Windass powered his header past Isted. It was harsh on the goalkeeper, harsh on this resolute Barnsley team but in its own way it was utterly deserved for Wednesday.

This Play-Off final will live long in the memory. Perhaps not for the majority of its 90 minutes, but surely for its fairytale, Roy of the Rovers finale. A moment to savour for both Wednesday and the neutral tuning in for some entertainment on a bank holiday Monday. Desolation for Barnsley. This is the cruel, incredible dichotomy of a Play-Off Final. For the Owls, the Championship beckons.

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