BARNSLEY 1 WOLVES 1
Wolverhampton Wanderers capped off promotion to the top flight by clinching the Coca-Cola Championship title but they were made to work for their moment of glory by a Barnsley side with their own agenda – one of league survival.
Mick McCarthy’s Wanderers had to wait until the 84th minute before a moment of wing-wizardry as Matt Jarvis carved open the Tykes’ defence to set up substitute Kyel Reid for the finish.
The goal – cancelling out a 59th minute Jon Macken goal – sent the travelling 6,000 Wolves fans in the stands into raptures but they later earned the wrath of manager Mick McCarthy for two impromptu pitch invasions – the last of which might have turned ugly had riot police not managed to keep advancing Barnsley fans at bay.
Wolves had gone into the game knowing a point was enough no matter what happened to chasing rivals’ Birmingham City.
McCarthy had been forced to make two changes from the side which clinched promotion last week with star striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake nursing a recurrence of a recent hamstring strain and midfielder Dave Jones out with a knee injury.
In came Aston Villa loan-striker Marlon Harewood in his first start for his Black Country neighbours while Dave Edwards moved from into midfield from the left to allow George Friend to start.
The newcomers could not nurse Wolves out of what looked like a giant hangover in the first half after all the promotion celebrations of last week.
Barnsley – one place above the relegation trapdoor and scrapping for their lives – proved a stern test throughout the opening half with Bobby Hassell and Jon Macken both testing Wales international keeper Wayne Hennessey.
And although McCarthy injected a hair-of-the-dog cure into his young side in the second half with the arrival of Sam Vokes and Reid from the bench it was Simon Davey’s Tykes who suddenly responded.
Hennessey thought he had saved an initial strike from Daniel Bogdanovic after a Barnsley break but was unable to do anything about the rebound which fell to Macken to throw the home fans a lifeline.
Wolves however have proved time and again they have a fight-back in them and suddenly sobered up with Matt Jarvis working wonders on the left flank to carve open a cross for the advancing Reid to fire home.
The goal sparked the first pitch invasion as Reid tried to escape the advancing masses. He had tried not to celebrate his debut Wolves goal as he realised the misery it heaped on his former employer but in the end had little choice as he was mobbed by the ecstatic supporters.
McCarthy later admitted it had not been his side’s best performance.
“We didn’t play particularly well and Barnsley wanted and needed it more but we’ve eked out another result,” he said. “Yet they stuck at it as they have all season.”
McCarthy added: “The players have had their foot right to the floor for 44 games and knew they were more than likely to win the Championship whatever happened.”
With the title assured however Wolves can now relax ahead of their finale at Molineux and the visit of mid-table Doncaster Rovers on Sunday.
“It’s a huge sense of satisfaction not to go into next Sunday’s game needing to avoid defeat or whatever to clinch it,” the manager said.
“We’ve won the Championship with a game to spare and can go out and enjoy it. What better could we have wished for at the start of the season?”
Scorers: Macken (59) 1-0, Reid (84) 1-1.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Steele; Hassell, Moore, Guedes, Kozluk; Hammill (Andranik, 69), De Silva, Colace, Campbell-Ryce; Bogdanovic (Mifsud, 77); Macken. Substitutes: Muller, Devaney, El Haimour.
WOLVES (4-4-2): Hennessey; Foley, Craddock, Berra, Ward; Jarvis, Edwards, Henry, Friend (Reid, 45); Keogh (Hemmings, 68), Harewood (Vokes, 45). Substitutes: Stearman, Higgs.
Referee: Kevin Friend (Leicestershire).
Booking: Barnsley – Guedes.