Barnsley were knocked out of the EFL Cup at the first hurdle as League One Northampton stunned the Oakwell faithful with an extra-time winner from John-Joe O’Toole,
However, last night’s agonising defeat - the Reds missed a host of chances in the second half and then during the extra half-hour - took place amid an almost palpable buzz up and down the Oakwell stands following the news of John Stones’ big-money move from Everton to Manchester City.
The 22-year-old Barnsley-born defender switched to the Etihad Stadium for a whopping £47.5m, meaning the Reds’ till could be set to ring to the tune of more than £7m thanks to the 15-per-cent sell-on clause inserted into the deal which saw him move to Goodison Park from Oakwell in 2013 for a reported £3m.
The question flying between the Reds’ faithful appeared to be: ‘what will the club do with this massive windfall?’
It is an obvious query, but what happen will next? Surely Paul Heckingbottom would welcome the chance to strengthen his squad still further at the start of what is guaranteed to be a tough Championship campaign.
Stones, who has now won 10 full England caps, joined the Reds’ academy at the age of seven and stayed with the club for 12 years.
Some Reds fans may have been a little surprised that Paul Heckingbottom resisted wholesale changes last night, but this is a competition the manager was clearly in to win, despite the eventual outcome.
Marley Watkins was in the starting XI due to the enforced absence of the injured Sam Winnall, and he took his chance with both hands again.
He almost bagged in the opening few minutes, flashing a header narrowly wide.
James Bree made the most of his opportunity in place of Andy Yiadom, but arguably the most impressive ‘new face’ was George Moncur.
The summer capture from Colchester was making his first Reds start, and combined encouragingly well both with Adam Hammill and fellow new capture Tom Bradshaw.
It certainly looks like the half-a-million pounds laid out for Moncur was money well spent, though of course it is still early days.
He did run out of steam a little in the second period and was replaced by the energetic young Liverpool starlet Ryan Kent.
And Kent? He has definitely got class and has been well schooled. Just as he did on Saturday, the Oldham-born youngster showed glimpses of brilliance and will definitely will be one to watch this season.
Barnsley had been really good value for their lead at half-time against Northampton - the only team to have a better league record than the Reds in 2016 so far.
They fully deserved their lead, handed to them when Josh Scowen superbly headed home Adam Hammill’s pinpoint cross.
Tom Bradshaw and Conor Hourihane had also gone close during a sharp 45 minutes, but a very uncharacteristic error from Adam Davies let the Cobbles back in.
Somehow he managed to palm Matt Taylor’s cross from a corner-kick into his own goal, and suddenly it was ‘game on’ again.
The Reds piled on the pressure towards the end of the 90 minutes, but they couldn’t break through and the Oakwell faithful had to go through an extra half-an-hour.
Surely the Reds could finish the job in extra-time? When sub Stefan Payne thumped the post early in the first quarter-of-an-hour, it looked as though there would be no cup shock, but up popped the Cobblers’ gutsy midfielder John-Joe O’Toole to win the tie with only six minutes to go, and the atmosphere fell flat.
Barnsley (4-4-2): Davies; Bree (Yiadom, 96), Roberts, Mawson, White; Moncur (Kent, 63), Scowen, Hourihane, Hammill; Bradshaw (Payne, 82), Watkins. Subs not used: Townsend, Lee, MacDonald, Tuton.
Northampton (4-4-2): Smith; Phillips, Zakuani, Diamond, Buchanan; Gorre, Beautyman (D’Ath, 79), O’Toole, Taylor; Revell, Potter. Subs not used: Cornell, Moloney, Byrom, Richards, Hoskins, McDonald.
Referee: Carl Boyeson (East Yorkshire).