MX23RW : Thursday, February 21 22:54:26
Apr 3, 2016 at 2.30pm UK at ​Kassam Stadium
Oxford UtdOxford United
O'Dowda (29'), Hylton (76')
FT(HT: 1-0)
Dunkley (51' og.), Fletcher (68'), Hammill (74')

Preview: Oxford United vs. Barnsley

Sports Mole previews Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final between Oxford United and Barnsley at Wembley.

Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final pits Oxford United against Barnsley at Wembley.

The two sides are in different divisions, but there does not seem to be much separating them going into the match.


Oxford manager Michael Appleton looks on during the Sky Bet League Two match between Cambridge United and Oxford United at The Abbey Stadium on October 11, 2014© Getty Images

It is shaping up to be quite a season for Oxford as they are one win away from a trophy tomorrow and in contention to go up from League Two.

Michael Appleton's U's sit second in the fourth tier, but there are just two points separating them from Accrington Stanley in fifth.

With Northampton Town 14 clear at the top, it seems that there are just two automatic promotion places to fight for and with only six games of the season remaining, it is Oxford leading the pack at the moment.

Appleton's men have suffered defeat just once in their last nine games and they are unbeaten in their last four, although the last two have both been draws.

They are in the final of the Football League Trophy for the first time thanks to wins over Swindon Town, Dagenham & Redbridge and Yeovil Town before they overcame Millwall 2-1 in the two-legged semi-final courtesy of a 2-0 away win in the first leg.

As well as their run in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Oxford also wrote some headlines in January when they upset Premier League side Swansea City in the FA Cup.

Recent form: DLWWDD


Barnsley's English midfielder Marley Watkins (3R) is congratulated by team mate Barnsley's English defender Alfie Mawson (2R) after scoring a goal during the English League Cup football match between Barnsley and Everton at the Oakwell Stadium in Barnsley© Getty Images

Most of Barnsley's good work in the competition this season came under the guidance of Lee Johnson, but Bristol City recognised his good work and poached him in February just after the Tykes reached the final.

Paul Heckingbottom has been in caretaker charge since and kept Barnsley in the hunt for a playoff place in League One.

The Tykes have won seven of 11 under Heckingbottom, losing just twice in that time and keeping clean sheets in their last three games to lie seventh in the third tier, four points behind the playoffs but with a game in hand.

Like Oxford, Barnsley are in the final for the first time after scraping through the last two rounds on penalties.

Three 2-1 wins over Scunthorpe United, Bradford City and York City got the Tykes to the last eight before they needed penalties to beat Wigan Athletic, going on to also come past Fleetwood Town in a shootout after a pair of 1-1 draws in the semis.

Recent form: WWLWDW

Team News

Sam Winnall of Barnsley holds off Derrick Williams of Bristol City during the Sky Bet League One match between Bristol City and Barnsley at Ashton Gate on March 28, 2015© Getty Images

Barnsley strikers Sam Winnall and Marley Watkins face late fitness tests before Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final against Oxford.

On-loan trio Callum Connolly, Ashley Fletcher and Lloyd Isgrove have all returned unscathed from international duty and are in contention.

Appleton has said that he will not risk the fitness of Johnny Mullins and Joe Skarz, with important matches to come in his side's chase for automatic promotion.

Midfielder John Lundstram is unavailable as he serves the second of a three-match suspension and Ryan Taylor is also out with a groin injury.

Oxford possible starting lineup:
Buchel; Long, Wright, Dunkley, Ashby; MacDonald, Sercombe, Ruffles, Maguire; Roofe, Bowery

Barnsley possible starting lineup:
Davies; Williams, Roberts, Mawson, White; Scowen, Brownhill, Hourihane, Hammill; Winnall, Toney

Head To Head

Sunday's contest will be the first meeting between the two in over 17 years. They last clashed at the Manor Ground in January 1999 when a 60th-minute strike from Dean Windass was enough to clinch a 1-0 victory for United.

In total, the U's and Tykes have met on 22 occasions, with Barnsley holding the advantage with ten wins to Oxford's seven.

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We say: Oxford 2-2 Barnsley

It really is difficult to separate these two sides and Oxford's cup prowess this season might just be enough to earn them a victory in extra time or on penalties.

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Who will win the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Oxford or Barnsley?

General View of Oakwell Stadium, Barnsley Football Club during the npower Championship match between Barnsley and Blackpool at Oakwell Stadium on September 15, 2012
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