Barnsley will return to Wembley for the first time in eight years on Sunday afternoon with the Reds eager to pick up their first piece of silverware since 2006.
In their most recent clash under the arch, the Tykes went down to a 1-0 defeat against Cardiff in the FA Cup semi-finals but with the Club determined to taste victory this time around they travel to the capital in fine form.
Paul Heckingbottom’s side have now lost just two of their last 19 games in all competitions; winning 14 and drawing three.
With three clean sheets in their last three outings and four wins on the bounce away from home, the Reds could not be more prepared as they hunt for their first trophy success since the Club’s 2006 play-off final win against Swansea at the Millenium Stadium.
Sunday’s opponents Oxford also go into the game in fine form, having won five of their last nine games which leaves them in the League Two automatic promotion spots.
Michael Appleton’s men are also unbeaten in their last four matches and with the U’s tasting success in seven of their last 10 outings away from the Kassam Stadium they will go to Wembley for the first time since 2010 confident of causing an upset.
Sunday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final will see Barnsley and Oxford meet for the first time in over 17 years.
The last clash between the sides – which came all the way back in January 1999 – ended with Oxford enjoying their seventh win in this fixture with a 1-0 home success.
Despite that result the Reds did pick up their own victory against the U’s in the 1998-99 campaign after they secured a 1-0 triumph courtesy of John Hendrie’s 43rdminute winner at Oakwell.
That victory was Barnsley’s 10thagainst Oxford but with both sides being kept apart in both the League and Cup since then, it means Sunday’s game has the potential to be an interesting affair.
Barnsley will make late checks on the fitness of striking duo Sam Winnall and Marley Watkins ahead of this weekend’s final.
Top goal scorer Winnall has missed the Reds' last two games, while Watkins has sat out the last three with a dead calf.
In their absence loanee Ivan Toney has been leading the line and if the pair fail to return, the Newcastle man could partner Ashley Fletcher in attack once again.
Despite that, caretaker Head Coach Paul Heckingbottom has several systems available to him and with Lloyd Isgrove returning from international duty - as well as the form of Harry Chapman and Adam Hammill - it has the potential to be an interesting selection come Sunday afternoon.
Heckingbottom also has a big decision to make at right-back, with James Bree and Callum Connolly now vying with recent first team regular George Williams for a starting berth at Wembley.
League Two side Oxford will be without midfielder John Lundstram, who serves the second of his three-match ban after receiving red in the U’s 1-1 draw against Stevenage on Good Friday.
On a more positive note however and boss Michael Appleton will be able to welcome back a trio of players from international call-ups including Callum O’Dowda, Jordan Evans and Jonjoe Kenny.
Man in the Middle
Andy Woolmer is the man entrusted with taking charge of this weekend’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final. The Northamptonshire official has met with the Reds on six previous occasions, with Barnsley winning two, losing three and drawing one in his company. The most recent of those games came in August when the Reds went down 3-1 at Chesterfield, while their last victory with Woolmer in charge was in 2012 when the Tykes edged past Derby County 3-2 at Oakwell.
Sunday’s opponents Oxford meanwhile have drawn three of their five meetings with Woolmer including a 3-3 draw against Accrington Stanley in December 2012. The U’s have also lost one and won one with the Northamptonshire-based referee in charge; with the Club picking up a 3-0 victory at home to Mansfield in February last season.
Despite those games, Woolmer – who will run the rule over a game at Wembley for the first time on Sunday – has not been involved with either Barnsley or Oxford this season. The 49-year-old has overseen 32 games so far this term however, brandishing 99 yellow cards and two reds.
Their Star Man
In Kemar Roofe, Oxford boast one of the signings of the season. Following a loan spell with the U’s last year – in which he scored six goals in 16 games – the Club completed a permanent transfer for the attacker in May.
Joining from Premier League side West Brom – for whom he never made a senior appearance – Roofe has been a revelation this term; hitting 24 goals in 45 outings so far. The first of those goals came in the 23-year-old’s second appearance for the U’s, as he struck in an impressive 4-0 League Cup triumph at Brentford.
That finish was just one of five goals that the winger scored in his first seven matches for Sunday’s opponents and the former Northampton, Cheltenham and Colchester loanee has gone onto be a regular goal scorer throughout the campaign which has included braces against Swindon and Millwall in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, as well as another double, this time in the FA Cup, against Swansea.
Last month the Walsall-born forward struck his first hat-trick of the campaign, with his treble downing Dagenham & Redbridge in a 4-0 home success for the U’s. Those goals leave Oxford in an automatic promotion spot and with Roofe also contributing five assists this term he has the potential to cause serious danger for the Reds on Sunday afternoon.
With Barnsley preparing for their first season back in the Championship following their play-off final success against Swansea, the Reds completed the signing of utility man Sam Togwell in July 2006. The then 21-year-old – who joined the Club from Crystal Palace – made his Tykes debut in a 2-1 home defeat against Cardiff.
Despite that less than perfect start to his spell at Oakwell, the Reds then won their next two games against Hull and Colchester with Togwell starring in a midfield role alongside Brian Howard, Martin Devaney and Michael McIndoe.
In total the versatile midfielder made 46 appearances in his maiden season for the Reds as they finished 20thand survived relegation by eight points. Togwell – who appeared only four times for Palace – also scored his first goal for the Reds during the 2006-07 season; striking a late consolation in Barnsley’s 2-1 home loss against Derby County.
With the current Barnet man fitting perfectly into the Tykes side many expected he would again in the following season but after some more new arrivals his chances became limited; featuring only 27 times as the Reds finished 18th.
Togwell did net his second goal for the Reds in an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Southampton but after his contract expired at the end of the campaign he departed Oakwell and penned a deal with Scunthorpe United.
Since then the tough tackling midfielder has enjoyed spells with both Chesterfield and Wycombe before joining Barnet in 2014. The Bees became the ninth Club of Togwell’s career which has also included a loan spell with Sunday’s opponents Oxford.
The Beaconsfield-born midfielder joined the U’s on loan from boyhood Club Palace in October 2004 and spent a month at the Kassam Stadium; appearing five times. Just like his Barnsley debut, Togwell’s Oxford bow ended in defeat and unfortunately for the 31-year-old, he lost four of his five games at the Club. The former Tykes home debut for the U’s did end in victory however, with Togwell playing all 90 minutes of their League Two success against Cheltenham.
Barnsley’s last five: (WLWDW)
Walsall 1-3 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-2 Southend United
Fleetwood Town 0-2 Barnsley
Barnsley 0-0 Scunthorpe United
Port Vale 0-1 Barnsley
Oxford’s last five: (LWWDD)
Oxford United 0-1 Leyton Orient
Oxford United 4-0 Dagenham & Redbridge
Barnet 0-3 Oxford United
Oxford United 1-1 Stevenage
Cambridge United 0-0 Oxford United
Road to the Final
Barnsley’s JPT results:
Scunthorpe United 1-2 Barnsley
Bradford City 1-2 Barnsley
Barnsley 2-1 York City
Wigan Athletic 2-2 Barnsley (Barnsley won on pens)
Barnsley 1-1 Fleetwood Town
Fleetwood Town 1-1 Barnsley (Barnsley won on pens)
Oxford’s JPT results:
Oxford United 2-0 Swindon Town
Dagenham & Redbridge 0-2 Oxford United
Oxford United 3-2 Yeovil Town
Millwall 0-2 Oxford United
Oxford United 0-1 Millwall