As Arsenal have blown getting to Wembley this year by being rubbish against Watford, SpursBoy thought it would be a good idea to get me to Wembley via the medium of the JPT Final. In it’s 10th and final year, the JPT is technically the Football League Trophy, and is open to teams in the 1st, second, third and fourth divisions of the football league. Unusually, until the final, the teams are split between North and South, and so me, SpursBoy and Westminster Mag found ourselves last Sunday making our way to Wembley to sit with the southerners of Oxford United.
I don’t know why SpursBoy chose the Oxford end. I have no love for them, he went to college in Barnsley, and Westminster Mag has a broad Yorkshire accent! But nevertheless, this is where we are heading, so I find the closest thing I have to a yellow shirt that isn’t a 1971 Arsenal away shirt, my trusty Dukla Pragua shirt, and we head off.
We’ve discovered that the best place to meet people when going to Wembley is West Hampstead, as it’s only a few stops from Wembley on the Jubilee Line and there is a decent pub there, The Railway. It is also near my favourite street in London, the bizarrely named ‘Billy Fury Way’. To change from the Jubilee Line to the Overground or vice versa via West Hampstead is known as ‘the Billy Fury Shuffle’. By me anyway.
So we met Westminster Mag in the Railway, had a beer and headed off. Mag was a bit miffed because she’d agreed to come on this little jaunt before she realised that it clashed with the T20 men’s final, but we caught the tail end of the ladies’ on the telly in the pub, and her plan was to listen on 5 Live.
We got toe Wembley about an hour before kick off. It’s a nice enough stadium but without the romance of the old place. I miss those towers, regardless of how impressive the arch is. We then realised that our Yorkshirewoman, in the Oxford End, was also wearing a coat of Barnsley red! There was a chance this could be awkward!
There was a nice bit of singing outside. Oxford, usually a mix of town and gown, and often with rivalries between those two groups, were united in singing songs along the lines of “we’ve got a degree and you’ve got a caravan” to the Barnsley fans.
We get in and we’ve pretty decent seats. The tannoy announcer is the same bloke who works at Arsenal so I feel quite at home. Until ‘The JPT Girls’ come out. That’s right. Cheerleaders. I had thought they went out of fashion in the ’90’s, and I’m less than happy about this. It’s all trying to be very American, though clearly someone hasn’t been informed that cheerleaders are being phased out of American sports too! All is right with the world again as representatives of all the participating clubs parade around the perimeter, and they are as it should be, old blokes with suits and flags.
We have the national anthem, which is sung very well by a lass who doesn’t deviate from the actual tune, and the teams are called out. I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of any of the players, though Oxford seem to have a fair few Irish lads which makes me happy.
I’ll admit that we weren’t all engrossed in the game. Mag had the cricket to listen to, and me and SpursBoy were keeping an eye on the Leicester score. But it was a good first half, with both keepers making excellent saves. Oxford finally broke the deadlock on 28 with a goal from O’Dowda, and they dominated for the rest of the half. Barnsley were not without their chances but at half time it was 1-0 to the yellows, and deservedly so.
Half time from elsewhere, Leicester have beaten Southampton so are still on for the title, and England are getting battered in the T20 final. Not good, grumpy faces all round.
The second half kicks off and it only takes five minutes before Barnsley get their equaliser, what looks like a goal from Winnall gets put down as a Dunkley own goal. The next 20 minutes is real end-to-end stuff, a great contest, and it’s really not clear who is going to come out on top. We are all thinking that there will be extra time here, which admittedly is something we can all do without. 23 minutes from time, Ashley Fletcher for Barnsley. Though we are nominally supporting Oxford, we are secretly pleased! No extra time!
Oxford are still battling though, and it’s likely there is still a goal in this. They come very close with about 17 minutes to go but only two minutes later the killer blow comes from Barnsley’s Hammill with a beautiful curling close range shot that the Oxford keeper can do nothing about. It looks as though Oxford can’t get back into it, and then seconds after the restart Hylton scores with his head for the yellows.
Despite the late goal, Oxford don’t get into it. There are six minutes of added time and the Oxford fans begin to leave. Oxford have one more chance from a corner but it’s straight at the keeper in the end.
The stewards prepare for the end of the game by walking down the steps, looking around then aimlessly walking back up again. There is a last gasp free kick for Oxford after a nasty tackle and a yellow card but it’s well in their half and no danger. Barnsley just keep the ball until the whistle goes.
We stay for the trophy presentation. Hammill is rightfully Man of the Match, and we hewad back to the pub to watch England lose the T20 in some style. Well done Barnsley, and well done West Indies.