Football: Hendrie cuts through Vale

Barnsley 1 Hendrie 26 Port Vale 0 Attendance: 12,246
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The Independent Online
Eager To raise awareness of their Premiership ambitions, Barnsley gave away 2,500 tickets to local schoolchildren yesterday and will have been happy at least to have rewarded their shrill support with the desired result. Their manager Danny Wilson, however, was less easily satisfied.

John Hendrie's first-half goal confirmed that there is still good mileage in the former Middlesbrough striker's legs, taking his tally to 11 goals in 20 matches since Wilson released him from his Riverside obscurity in October.

Overall, however, it was not a performance to convince the more sceptical members of the Barnsley public that the dream of top-flight football is about to become a reality for a club that has yet to experience such heights in a 110-year history.

None the less Barnsley have already won the right to be taken seriously. The Oakwell ground is no longer the museum piece it once was thanks to the club's careful investment in two Premiership quality stands. Moreover, the football is sophisticated enough to have made the rest of the First Division take a respectful note.

Wilson, a classy midfielder in his day, has built a team true to his principles, the difference between this season and previous promotion attempts being that Hendrie and Paul Wilkinson, his former Middlesbrough team mate, have added a cutting edge.

The pair ensured that one of the First Division's more resilient defences had a lot to keep them occupied yesterday and combined to score the decisive goal.

It stemmed from an unnecessary foul on Wilkinson by Neil Aspin, Vale's experienced captain, who brought his opponent down with a reckless challenge from behind almost on the halfway line. Aspin was booked and brought further punishment on his team when Neil Redfearn's free-kick launched a move from which Wilkinson, pulling back a low cross from the right, set up Hendrie to sweep the ball home at the near post.

On the balance of possession the goal had been coming but Vale hit back swiftly, with Lee Mills and Tony Naylor each going close before half-time, and then made life difficult for the home side with some defensive readjustments, limiting the effectiveness of Barnsley's strike force. Andy Porter was outstanding in his defensive midfield role and Barnsley's quest for a second goal became more anxious.

However, once Wilson had replaced Wilkinson with Trent Marcelle, his Trinidadian winger, the visiting defence was stretched and Barnsley ought to have secured their cushion, Hendrie squandering the clearest of half a dozen opportunities.