A name like stadium:mk belongs to a different world from the evocative old venues of the FA Cup's past. It is a place built for tomorrow and, with an upper tier that remains bare concrete, has the feel of that awful concept now part of the modern game's vernacular – a project – yet there was history in the air here yesterday. The League One side Milton Keynes Dons were in the FA Cup fifth round for the first time, having enjoyed memorable victories over AFC Wimbledon and QPR, of the Premier League, en route. A sizeable crowd turned up to see if they could go even further.
As it was, they went home disappointed as their in-form Championship visitors, Barnsley, continued their resurgence under David Flitcroft, taking control with early strikes by Chris Dagnall and Marlon Harewood, then surviving the second-half rally that brought a reply from the home striker Dean Bowditch. With Dagnall's second in stoppage time, Barnsley made sure of their return to the quarter-finals five years after they overcame Liverpool and Chelsea on a famous run to the last four.
It was on this very day in 2008 that Barnsley won 2-1 at Anfield on Luke Steele's debut in goal. For the first 45 minutes, Steele did not have a save to make as the visitors showed the form that had brought six wins from their seven previous fixtures under Flitcroft, promoted from assistant manager after Keith Hill's sacking in late December.
Barnsley had the lead inside three minutes when Dagnall, scorer of the fourth-round winner at Hull, timed his run perfectly to collect Jacob Mellis's ball over the home defence and angle a fine finish into the far corner of David Martin's goal.
The 3,700 travelling fans did not have to wait long to celebrate again. Scott Wiseman raced clear on to a Mellis pass and pulled the ball back for Harewood to drive emphatically home.
"The first half was a masterclass," said Flitcroft, who admitted the complexion of the contest changed after a long delay early in the second half when Kelvin Etuhu underwent treatment after a clash of heads with Adam Chicksen. After suffering concussion, he left the pitch on a stretcher and was taken to hospital for tests. "It threw my players emotionally," said Flitcroft, who saw Barnsley's lead cut soon after when Bowditch broke free to score.
"The second half was more like us," said the Dons manager Karl Robinson. "We played the game right and arguably we probably deserved a little bit more."
They came close to a second – not least when the old warhorse Alan Smith drew a fingertip save from Steele with a header from a corner – but Barnsley found gaps on the counter and after Jason Scotland and Mellis had gone close, Dagnall was sent through by David Perkins, rounded Martin and made sure.
That was in the second minute of 12 minutes of stoppage time and there was still time for an unsavoury postscript as Smith earned a straight red card for leading with his arm in a challenge on Rory Delap. Robinson said that the referee, Michael Jones, was acting on Smith's reputation. "If the ref keeps his report his exact words were 'it was contact to the back of the head with the arm'. It is contact under his armpit, a good foot from his head."
That was not all, though. As Smith departed, Flitcroft got involved in an incident involving a home fan who was ejected from the ground after what the manager described as an "alleged racist" altercation with Harewood. A subsequent joint statement from the clubs said that Thames Valley Police had interviewed the fan but there was "no evidence to suggest the alleged gesture was of a racist nature".