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Interviews

ON THIS DAY | Walsall 2019

23 March 2020

“Mowatt controls, Mowatt pulls it back, Jacob Brown, blocked shot, BROWN AGAINNNN! JACOB BROWWWWNNNNN! WITH A WINNER FOR BARNSLEY IN STOPPAGE TIME!”

With iFollow Barnsley commentator Matt Bailey’s cries of pure ecstasy still reverberating around the Banks’s Stadium, the Reds had picked up three incredibly crucial points in their bid to secure promotion from Sky Bet League One.

Memories are made in instances like these; an ‘I remember where I was’ moment.

As time ticked agonisingly on, it appeared as though Barnsley would be left frustrated once more, having drawn 0-0 in their previous two outings against play-off chasing Sunderland and Doncaster Rovers.

And, after being held to stalemates with Portsmouth and Burton Albion at the back end of February, it would have been a fifth goalless tie in seven for a side who had been labelled the division’s great entertainers.

Jacob Brown sets himself to score the winning goal

But, with time almost up, our very own ‘Star Man’, Jacob Brown, prodded home from close range to spark scenes of delirium amongst the travelling supporters in the West Midlands and tighten the Reds’ grip on second place.

One year on, we caught up with three heroes from that day; all of whom played their part – and in very different ways.

“I remember everything,” reminisced goalscorer Brown. “Obviously, the game itself was probably one of the worst performances for me, personally, and I think as a team it was such a bad game for us. But, in the dying minutes, we got the goal and it’s probably my favourite memory of my whole career.

“When I hit it first time, I just wanted to get it on target because there were a lot of bodies so I thought anything could happen. Their guy did a good block and it came straight back at me, and everything happened proper quick – I just hit it again; I think it’s gone under the keeper’s legs and everyone just went crazy. We were right next to the away end, so I sprinted there and everyone was jumping on me and it was mental.

“It just happened – I obviously wanted to run towards the fans, but I don’t remember what happened. I took my top off and then everyone was jumping together in the away end.”

Jacob Brown celebrates his dramatic winner

However, had it not been for Ben Williams’ timely goal line clearance, those scenes of jubilation may not have been possible.

The young left-back – in his debut, breakthrough campaign – showed magnificent anticipation to hook Corey Blackett-Taylor’s shot into the crowd and set-up an incredible finale.

It is a key moment that is often overlooked, but should never be forgotten, because the contribution went a long way to securing promotion back to the Championship at the first attempt.

“It all happened pretty quick to be fair,” recalled Williams. “I seem to remember the ball ricocheting about and it fell to their striker clean through, and Jack’s done well to make the angle a bit tighter for him, but my last thought was to run to the line – my instinct was to just leg it back and I somehow managed to hook it away.

“I was asked quite a few times by my mates at the end of the season if it had gone over the line, because they were watching on Sky and said it looked really tight. It was 0-0 at the time, so that was a big moment in terms of us going onto win the game.

Ben Williams' stunning goal line clearance

“To be fair, I did think I’d got back before the whole ball crossed the line and I think the linesman was in a decent position to see all along the line, so luckily for us it wasn’t given and we were able to go on and win the game.

“I’ve watched it back on Sky a few times because I recorded the game and it happened all a bit slowly – the lead up to it was really quick, but then time seemed to freeze. But, somehow, I managed to get back, and it’s all a bit surreal when you see it again because of how massive a moment it was in securing promotion.

“In the games before we’d been through, not a bad patch, because we’d set ourselves such high standards through our performances and results throughout the whole season – like being unbeaten at home and picking up win after win, and everyone was a bit shocked when we didn’t win.

“The high standards that we had set made it tough because we were thinking if we didn’t win then it wouldn’t be good enough for Barnsley. We’d drawn a few of the games beforehand, but kept a lot of clean sheets on the road and although, we weren’t getting three points, we were nicking draws and each point was massive come the end of the season with how tight it was.

“But that win at Walsall was massive in terms of us getting our promotion push back on track.”

Fans celebrate a priceless victory

Another unsung hero from that afternoon is Jack Walton, who was deputising for Adam Davies while the skipper was on international duty with Wales.

It was the young stopper’s third and final league appearance of the campaign, having already faced the Saddlers in a hard-fought 1-1 draw at Oakwell earlier in the season and featuring in the 3-2 victory against Luton Town.

Walton was a colossus throughout the game, pulling off a number of fine saves to continuously thwart Walsall, who could easily have been three goals clear at the interval had it not been for the Reds’ number 13.

“I remember most of it, to be honest; it was an enjoyable day,” reflected Walton. “It ended up being a pivotal game of the season. I thought I did well, especially having not played for a while before that game. To go out and get a clean sheet was great and something I was really pleased with.

“There was one save, where their guy cut in from my left and I just had to make myself as big as possible and, luckily, he hit it right at me.

Jack Walton embraced at full-time by Daniel Stendel

“I think Davo had kept six clean sheets in a row before that, so there was a lot of pressure on me to keep that going. But the only pressure we had was to pick up three points; Walsall were struggling at the time and I think we’d drawn the last two games so we needed to win to keep the pressure on teams around us.

“We’d played Sunderland and Doncaster previously, which were really tough games and they were very good teams last season. Sometimes, if you can’t win the game, you need to pick up points and we were keeping clean sheets as well, and they were valuable at the end of the season.

“Luckily for me, heading into the game, I had experience of playing and had a few games under my belt, so for me it was just about stepping in and showing what I could do – like I’d done in the Championship the season before.

“Every time you play, you want to play your best. I think everyone would say, as a team, we didn’t perform as well as we wanted to but the main thing is that we got the result in the last minute. I really do think it was a turning point because we knew we hadn’t played our best, but the joy in the changing room after was amazing and it made us kick on and we found our best.”

A pivotal moment at the Banks's Stadium

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The events that unfolded that afternoon at the Banks’s Stadium will always live long in the memory of all Barnsley supporters and players as it laid the foundations for an enthralling end-of-season run-in.

A return to the second tier was eventually secured, and, even though it was a culmination of the hard work over the course of a 46-game campaign, the result against Walsall is one that will forever be looked back on as a defining moment.


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