Barnsley 4-3 Mansfield
Barnsley and Mansfield Town produced a fitting farewell to a Reds legend by serving seven goals in front of nearly 3,000 supporters at Oakwell.
The game was played to mark Bobby Hassell’s 10 years at the club where he played 299 times between 2004 and 2014.
The opponents were the only other English side he has played for, Hassell spent eight years at Mansfield before signing for then Barnsley manager Paul Hart.
During his stint at Oakwell, Hassell has played under eight different managers with Lee Johnson becoming his ninth, although the current “Head Coach” sat back and relaxed for the final 20 minutes when the so-called “Barnsley Legends” took to the field.
The current side played for the first 70 minutes, captained by Hassell for the first half an hour and it included two players signed that morning on loan from Manchester United, the returning Ben Pearson and his club mate Joe Rothwell.
However it was Mansfield who looked the livelier side getting in behind the Reds central defensive pairing of Alfie Mawson and Lewin Nyatanga. Johnson must also surely be looking to sign a couple of wingers in the next fortnight as The Reds currently have a glaring lack of width.
It was therefore some surprise that Barnsley took the lead, although once Josh Scowen had been clipped in the box there was no surprise as to who the penalty taker would be. Hassell grabbed the ball and stroked it into the top corner for a 1-0 lead after just seven minutes.
The lead lasted barely 90 seconds however before Barnsley made a hash of defending a free kick and allowed the ball to flick through to an unmarked Matt Green who simply tucked it past Adam Davies.
The day looked like it could turn sour when the Stags turned it on its head on half an hour by taking the lead. Nathan Thomas delivered a cross-field ball that The Reds defence could not deal with and Reggie Lambe collected then dinked over the on rushing Davies.
But again a lead did not last long and seven minutes after Lambe’s effort, a quite brilliant goal from trialist David Ball hauled the two sides level.
Ball, 25, has come to Oakwell following his release by Fleetwood with whom he netted eight League One goals last season and he raced on to a long ball forward from Mawson, which when 25 yards out with Mansfield keeper Scott Shearer approaching, he managed to superbly lift the ball over the keeper and watched it nestle in the back of the net.
Aside from the actual goals the current incumbents of the Red shirts offered little as an attacking threat with loanee Conor Wilkinson resembling a poor man’s Rory Fallon alongside the busy Ball upfront.
They did though retake the lead on 67 minutes from one moment of good football. James Bree managed to beat his man on the right wing for the only time in the game, raced to the by-line and pulled it back to the onrushing Rothwell to turn home a debut goal.
This proved the final action for the class of 2015 as on 70 minutes they all departed to be replaced by 10 players with a combined total of 1665 Barnsley appearances, 795 of which with Hassell, took to the field.
Eight of them have done something only seven other Barnsley teams have done, win a promotion, and it showed. Despite a combined age of 339, nobody under the age of 32 and admittedly playing a now tiring Mansfield, they showed more attacking purpose, wing play and imagination than their successors did for the previous hour.
Martin Devaney was dancing on the wing, Brian Howard produced one lovely twist, flick and strike that Shearer just tipped over and (after his obligatory offside) Daniel Nardiello did what he did since the first day he walked into Oakwell on the 27th January 2004, scored. On 83 minutes Neil Austin flew down the right wing that had troubled the Stags 16 minutes earlier and hung a cross to the back post where Nardiello was waiting and poaching to nod it over the line. The former Manchester United youngster bagged 14 goals for David Flitcroft’s Bury last season to help them win promotion to League One and The Reds will most certainly have to be on their guard when the two teams meet on Boxing Day.
To continue the theme of the day, one goal was swiftly followed by another and two minutes after Nardiello’s effort, Craig Westcarr turned Heckingbottom and Reid inside out before firing across David Preece and into the far corner to reward the very commendable efforts of the 196 Mansfield fans who had travelled to the game.
No matter the result the day belonged to one Bobby Hassell, who on yesterday’s evidence could so easily walk back into the side.
The Reds remain unbeaten in pre-season but it is now matters off the field, which are most pressing.
Barnsley team for the first 70 minutes:
Marc Roberts (for Hassell 30)
Matty Templeton (for Mawson 63)
Christian Dibble, George Maris.
Barnsley team after 70 minutes: