Football: Barnsley board the Premiership

Barnsley 2 Wilkinson 21, Marcelle 87 Bradford City 0 Attend ance: 18,605: Promotion day: Wilson's wizards achieve the implausible dream
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The Independent Online
Barnsley finally made it to the promised land yesterday. With Moses bearing the red No 5 shirt, it seemed inevitable. After 109 years in the wilderness - 109 not in, Harold Bird, a guest in Oakwell's directors' box, might have put it - the Tykes gained entry to English football's elite division. They did so with a stylish flourish, Clint Marcelle's 87th-minute clincher prompting scenes of celebrations this particular part of the South Yorkshire republic had never seen before. Paul Wilkinson's first-half goal, laid on by John Hendrie, set Barnsley on their way. But it was left to Clint to make their day.

As the Trinidadian substitute wove through the Bradford defence and buried a right-foot shot in the Kop End goal, Oakwell stopped pining for the past of Skinner Normanton and looked forward to a future in which Cantona, Zola and the rest of the Premiership's prized performers will be treading in the sepia studmarks of Michael Parkinson's hero. That Juninho and Fabrizio Ravanelli might not be among the footballing glitterati on show in Barnsley's new season was one of the ironies which hung heavily in the air as the champagne corks popped on the pitch and 18,000 Tykes drank in the sweet, unfamiliar, taste of success. The boy from Brazil and the poacher from Perugia were brought to Middlesbrough at the expense of Wilkinson and Hendrie, whose goals gained the Teessiders top-flight status in 1995 and who have now done the same for Barnsley, a team assembled at a cost of pounds 830,000 and moulded into first class material by Danny Wilson since Viv Anderson joined Middlesbrough's high-cost mission three years ago.

"We've got to look to Wimbledon's example, now," Wilson said, surveying the scenes of celebrations from the directors' box. "That has to be our inspiration. There's not a lot of money to spend, but what we do have must be spent wisely. I want to build on what we started here. I was grateful to Barnsley for giving me my chance in management and I hope this promotion is a case of loyalty repaid. We've done it the right way, too, working hard and honestly and playing good football. These fans have seen a lot of hard times here, they deserve a day like today."

"The party will go on for a year," John Dennis, Barnsley's chairman, added.

At kick-off time the locals were already in the mood, singing "Just like Brazil," a tribute to the stylish play which has hallmarked Barnsley's rise this season. With a Brazilian No 10 on the pitch, in the pale blue of Bradford's change strip, it may have been tempting providence. To much collective relief, however, when the first chance fell the way of Edinho, his first touch was more Bradfordian than Brazilian. He scuffed his 10th- minute shot and Oakwell breathed again.

There was no lack of huff and puff among the home ranks. Quite the opposite, in fact. Such was Barnsley's eagerness to not so much clear as smash through the final hurdle, it took them a quarter-of-an-hour to find their push- and-run rhythm. They did so with a vengeance, however, peppering Aidan Davison's goal with close on 30 shots before the interval.

The breakthrough came after 22 minutes, Hendrie crossing from the right and Wilkinson applying the finishing touch with a downward header. Andy Liddell also struck a post before the overworked Davison was relieved by the half-time whistle.

The script was different in the second half. Minute by minute, the Barnsley nerves tautened. Twice Hendrie was through with a clear sight of goal, and twice Davison parried. Focus shifted to the other end, where Ole Bjorn Sundgot emerged as the key figure. The Bradford substitute attacked in tandem with Ole Solskjaer in his days as a part-timer with Molde in Norway. It was Barnsley's good fortune that he lacked the Gunnar's killer touch yesterday. First he trundled a low drive wide of David Watson's right- hand post, with the Barnsley keeper beaten. Then, with 18 minutes left, he struck the same upright after Edinho's low cross found him unmarked in the goalmouth.

The tension lifted when Marcelle scored Barnsley's second. A number of Bradford fans, ignoring their own side's perilous plight, stayed on to play their sporting part in the celebrations. There was one notable absentee. The Barnsley fans chanted: "Are you watching Mark McGhee?" It was McGhee's reported suggestion that Barnsley would be "thrown to the sharks" if they reached the Premiership. He would have swapped places with top-class Tykes last night, as he prepared his players for the play- offs. Better to be thrown to the sharks than the wolves.

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