Football: Hignett shows Rovers the exit

Barnsley 4

Hignett 38 44 71, Dyer 63

Bristol Rovers 1

Roberts 83

Half-time: 2-0 Attendance: 17,508

WITH THE earthy flair that characterised their season among the elite last term, Barnsley yesterday exploded the notion they are prepared to retire quietly from the limelight. They have made the FA Cup quarter- finals for the second year running.

Craig Hignett, a Cup finalist with Middlesbrough two years ago and a rejuvenated individual since Barnsley rescued him from Aberdeen, was their artist and executioner, scoring a hat-trick to snuff out Rovers' challenge and leave Fulham to fly the Second Division flag at Old Trafford today.

A year ago, it was Barnsley visiting Manchester United in the fifth round. John Hendrie - now manager - pounced on an aberration by Peter Schmeichel and maintained a glossy, glamorous, heavily-headlined run to the quarter- finals.

Then, they beat Bolton, Spurs and United. This time, Hendrie and Barnsley are, by comparison, taking the country lanes to Wembley (via Swindon, Bournemouth and Bristol). The route is unimportant; the destination counts.

Their route to goal, though, is invariably attractive and, having drawn the sting of their passionate and magnificently supported visitors, they went down it frequently.

Hignett was outstanding - a bottomless Barnsley pit of industry and imagination. He was passing and prompting, cajoling and catalysing long before he turned his mind to scoring himself.

Bruce Dyer and his debutant strike partner Mike Sheron might have profited from Hignett's offerings early on. But eventually it was left to the star of the show to write his own headlines.

His first and third goals were, by his own admission, tap-ins, both the product of Dyer's muscular work in the box. The middle strike, just before half-time, was more representative of his performance - a scurry from half-way, a flurry of feet and a firm, precise finish.

Barnsley's other goal - a sumptuous, pivoting volley from Dyer - was the most picturesque of the lot and even invoked a burst of the fans' much loved Premiership reprise "it's just like watching Brazil".

However, such "singing when you're winning" was comfortably trumped by the awesome support offered to Rovers by more than 4,000 Bristolians. The Cup's ancient truism that all roads lead to Wembley had given way, in the morning, to the nasty realisation that only one major road leads northbound into Yorkshire.

Rovers fans had competed with those of Chelsea and Spurs for scarce, snails-pace M1 space, showing not a hint of the inferiority complex that might go with the competition's humblest remaining club; they were the subject of the most sympathy from manager Ian Holloway who complained that his side had played with fear and that "if you watch us regularly, we're much better than that".

The season's most prolific Cup scorer, Jason Roberts, did hit a late consolation for Rovers... but as his seventh goal in the competition rolled in, he already knew it was going to be the last.

Comments