Late Josh Windass header sends Sheffield Wednesday into Championship

Late Josh Windass header sends Sheffield Wednesday into Championship

Josh Windass scores a 123rd-minute winner as Sheffield Wednesday are promoted to the Championship with a 1-0 win over 10-man Barnsley in the League One playoff final.

Josh Windass scored a 123rd-minute winner in front of his overjoyed father as Sheffield Wednesday earned promoted to the Championship with a 1-0 win over 10-man Barnsley in the League One playoff final at Wembley.

The two rearguards won out during a goalless opening 90 minutes, as Barnsley also survived a straight red card to Adam Phillips early in the second half and gave Darren Moore‘s defenders plenty to think about.

However, Wednesday piled on the pressure in extra time, and in the third and final minute of added time, Windass’s diving header broke Barnsley hearts and sent the blue and white army into unrestrained pandemonium.

Compared to the Owls’ madcap semi-final encounters with Peterborough United, the first half at Wembley was a much more closely-fought affair, with few chances of note to report at either end of the field.

Challenges flew in left, right and centre early doors, and the first real half-chance fell to Dominic Iorfa on the volley with 10 minutes gone, but his attempt was a good height for Harry Isted, who palmed his strike into the air and away.

Moore’s side remained in the ascendancy as the sun beamed down onto the Wembley soil, but Barnsley held firm and restricted the Owls to sporadic sights of goal to get to half time with their clean sheet intact.

Barnsley's Adam Phillips is shown a red card by referee Tim Robinson on May 29, 2023© Reuters

There was little in the way of officiating drama in the first 45, but Barnsley were on the wrong end of two contentious decisions just five minutes after the restart, firstly being denied a penalty as Lee Gregory tried to clear inside his own box but struck the leg of Liam Kitching.

Neither referee Tim Robinson nor VAR official Tony Harrington saw any reason to intervene, and salt was rubbed into the Tykes’ wounds barely three minutes later, as Gregory was caught late by Phillips as the pair went in for a 50-50.

Both men slid in to try to win the ball, and Gregory got there first before feeling the full force of Phillips’s challenge; the Barnsley man went over Gregory rather than connecting with his studs, but a straight red card was the outcome.

Phillips was as aghast as the Barnsley contingent in the crowd, but that perceived sense of injustice only seemed to galvanise Michael Duff‘s men, who struck the bar through Kitching’s improvised header from Nicky Cadden‘s shot in the 54th minute as the game suddenly exploded into life.

Cadden had another chance tipped over by Cameron Dawson in the 54th minute before Isted prevented a deflected cross from ending up in the back of the net five minutes later, before also reacting quickest to prevent Michael Smith poking home the rebound.

The drama soon subsided, but Wednesday were still failing to make their extra man count and were indebted to Dawson for keeping the game goalless in the 79th minute.

Sheffield Wednesday's Barry Bannan reacts on May 29, 2023© Reuters

James Norwood bulldozed his way beyond the Owls’ backline and advanced on Dawson’s goal from the right, but the Wednesday goalkeeper produced a splendid reaction save at his near post as Norwood tried to pick out the top corner with a fierce drive.

Barnsley were playing like a team who were trying to avoid extra time at all costs, and after the first 90 minutes finished goalless, it was easy to see why.

Sheffield Wednesday came forward in droves between the 90th and 105th minutes, firstly seeing a goal-bound Michael Ihiekwe header hooked away by Mads Andersen in the 93rd minute before Isted produced one of the greatest saves Wembley had ever seen, making himself big and sticking out a strong right hand to deny Smith from point-blank range with 99 minutes gone.

Just two minutes later, Barry Bannan clipped the outside of the post with a first-time curling strike before Barnsley enjoyed a rare foray forward on the break, but with time and space to pick his spot in the left-hand side of the box, Luca Connell horribly miscued his attempt wide of the mark.

That shocking attempt would seemingly come back to haunt Connell, as only 55 seconds after the restart, Will Vaulks picked out the top corner with a magnificent first-time shot from the edge of the box after Jack Hunt‘s cutback.

Sheffield Wednesday's Josh Windass scores their first goal  on May 29, 2023© Reuters

Vaulks’s backflip was nearly as impressive as his strike, but the linesman’s flag soon went up – Hunt had just gone too early in the build-up – but Moore’s men were none the wiser as they celebrated wildly before realisation set in.

Bannan also sent a vicious volley into the palms of Isted before Wednesday’s midfield enforcer was taken off injured just five minutes before the end, but just when the dreaded penalty shootout was looming, Windass emulated his father to magnificent effect.

After more than two hours of football, Windass finally broke the Tykes’ resistance, meeting Gregory’s cross with a stunning diving header, and the hitherto impenetrable Isted could only help his strike on its way into the top corner.

Fifteen years after Dean Windass sent Hull City into the Premier League with the only goal of their playoff final against Bristol City, Windass junior wrote his own chapter in Owls folklore, as Sheffield Wednesday ended a two-year exile from the Championship following their 2021 relegation while condemning Barnsley to a second straight season in the third tier.

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