Oakwell (Barnsley)

Saturday 1st August 2009
Barnsley 1-1 Manchester City (pre-season friendly)
Att: 13,611

Due to a Bon Jovi concert (yes) taking place at the City of Manchester Stadium, City’s UEFA Cup qualifier against EB/Streymur in July 2008 was staged at Barnsley’s Oakwell. Circumstances prevented me from making that game, so I was delighted when a return visit was announced as a thank-you for the Tykes’ hospitality.

After friendlies in Germany and South Africa, this was City’s first game back in England so a large Blue contingent travelled over the Pennines. There was also the prospect of seeing new acquisitions Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor for the first time.

Oakwell is certainly an impressive structure and it’s not hard to believe that it staged Premier League fixtures in the 1997/98 season. The two-tiered East Stand is the focal point, and it’s connected to an unusual executive box/disabled viewing area at the south corner. The West Stand is more modest, and is the only original part of Oakwell which still remains. Although it’s also two-tiered, the upper tier is hidden away underneath the iron roof. The television gantry is clearly visible on the top of this stand. We were allocated the entire North Stand, where I paid £1.80 for the privilege of having the cap on my bottle of Coke removed. I must remember to bring my own tops in future…

After a minute’s applause for the late Sir Bobby Robson, City began the game by attacking the CK Beckett stand on the far side. Stephen Ireland was – as ever – stamping his authority on the game from midfield and creating chances for Craig Bellamy who fell foul of the linesman’s flag on more than one occasion. He disputed the decisions in his own inimitable style.

At the other end, ex-Blue (and hero of the epic 4-3 FA Cup win at Spurs) Jon Macken got a good reception from the travelling support, and shaved the post with a header following a cross from the right. Barnsley went even closer to taking the lead not long before the break when Butterfield struck the bar from the edge of the area. Luke Steele was having a fine game in the Barnsley goal and he pulled off a superb double save, from Bellamy and Adebayor, and despite further probing from Robinho the half ended goalless.

The second half ebbed the flowed in the same manner as the first, and Adebayor and Robinho both struck the woodwork in front of us. Bellamy should have opened the scoring on 75 minutes but he could only find the side netting when one-on-one with Steele.

The biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for the introduction of Barnsley’s Iain Hume. He was making his first appearance at Oakwell since he fractured his skull in an incident with Sheffield United’s infamous Chris Morgan in November 2008. The Tykes had something else to celebrate six minutes from time when Bogdanovic raced away from Tal Ben-Haim and fired a magnificent shot into the bottom left corner, despite Given’s best efforts.

That goal was the signal for some City fans to head for the exits, but the team weren’t finished yet. With seconds of nornal time remaining, Ireland found Martin Petrov at the far post who prodded home for 1-1. That was how it finished as the referee blew time on an entertaining contest a couple of minutes later.

It was a very worthwhile day out and a chance to see City back in action after the long summer break, and Oakwell was a suitable setting. It’s a classic football ground which emanates character, and I wouldn’t mind visiting again if City returned for another friendly or a cup-tie. Or if Barnsley got promoted. Or if we got relegated.

The East Stand, and the unusual stand in the corner

The East Stand, and the corner stand which attaches it to the CK Beckett end

Looking towards the CK Beckett stand, and a City corner

Looking towards the CK Beckett stand, and a City corner. The television gantry on the roof of the West Stand can be seen on the right-hand side


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