LATICS CROWNED LEAGUE ONE CHAMPIONSA brace from Sam Winnall and second half strikes from Conor Hourihane and Josh Brownhill denied Latics a final day victory, but it failed to dampen spirits, as Gary Caldwell’s men were crowned Sky Bet League One champions on a fittingly glorious day of sun at the DW Stadium.
Will Grigg had put Latics in front in the tenth minute, but Barnsley were chasing promotion themselves, and Sam Winnall’s brace sent them into the interval in the lead.
Latics tried to respond in the second half, but Conor Hourihane’s strike from the edge of the area and Brownhill’s excellent free-kick meant that the Yorkshire side earned a crucial three points.
Gary Caldwell made three changes to the side which sealed promotion at Blackpool last weekend, with Jason Pearce and Yanic Wildschut coming back into the side in place of Sam Morsy and Reece Wabara, whilst Lee Nicholls was given his first league start of the season in goal.
The DW Stadium was in a party mood before the game, with a buzz of excitement surrounding the bumper crowd of 18,730 – which included an impressive following from the visitors.
As the players walked out of the tunnel for the game, they were met by flames, which were a fitting sign of things to follow, with a familiar face opening the scoring in the tenth minute.
Both sides made an energetic start to the contest, but it was Latics who put themselves in-front on the ten minute mark through Will Grigg, who popped up at close range to poke home his 25th goal of the season, and spark another rendition of that ever so catchy chant.
Despite the opening goal, the game continued to be open, and the visitors pulled themselves level on the half hour mark from the penalty spot, after Ashley Fletcher was brought down by Stephen Warnock. Sam Winnall stepped up, and coolly slot the ball into the bottom left hand corner to level things up.
The visitors were buoyed by the goal and continued to press forward, and almost went in front three minutes before the interval through Winnall, who was denied by a brilliant stop by Nicholls from close range.
Barnsley continued to push forward though, and were rewarded just before half-time when Sam Winnall popped up to poke the ball home from close range.
Nicholls looked to have denied Lloyd Isgrove, who weaved into the area and saw his effort pushed onto the post by the ‘keeper, but Winnall was there to poke home from close range – to send Barnsley into the interval with a lead.
The second half continued in a similar fashion to the first, and was wide open, with Latics going close just four minutes after the kick-off through substitute Ryan Colclough, who was teed up by Wildschut from the left and blasted his effort straight at a defender, before Hammill went close at the other end 60 seconds later.
It was the visitors who scored next however, and extended their lead on 57 minutes through Conor Hourihane, who guided the ball into the bottom corner after being teed up by Fletcher on the edge of the area.
Caldwell’s men tried to muster a response, but it wasn’t to be, and Barnsley completed the scoring 15 minutes from time through Josh Brownhill, who beautifully guided home his effort from a free-kick from 25 yards out.
Latics were well beaten on the day, but the result did little to deter the brilliant home support, who wouldn’t be deterred and sang throughout the contest.
Full-time soon came, and Latics had their moment in the sun.
The players came out from the tunnel one-by-one to a rapturous applause, including Juan Carlos Garcia, who continues his fight against leukaemia - with club captain Craig Morgan the final man out.
Our very own Captain Morgan made his way to the podium and hoisted the Sky Bet League One Trophy into the air; to cap off what has been a remarkable season, and a complete pleasure to watch.