Barnsley caretaker head coach Paul Heckingbottom has heaped praise on his squad’s character after they came from behind to beat Oxford United in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final.Callum O'Dowda’s header put Oxford into the lead, but an own goal from Cheyenne Dunkley and strikes from Ashley Fletcher and Adam Hammill steered the Tykes to victory at Wembley.
Heckingbottom, who only took charge of Barnsley after Lee Johnson’s departure in February, believes his players showed immense spirit to fight back from a poor first-half display.
“It’s probably the first time since I’ve taken over that they needed a bit of a kick up the backside," he said.
"They know they needed it, too. It wasn’t a case of getting technical, they just needed a bit of a mental lift and to play with no fear. They had to show more aggression and take chances, and they did that in the end.
“Everyone knows they’ve got character and they showed it again. We were much better in that second half.
“The message to the players is to enjoy it now. Games like today is why you play football and we’ll certainly be celebrating as a club after this.”
Heckingbottom insists Barnsley’s focus must now switch to their remaining games in Sky Bet League 1, where they are in with a chance of finishing in the Play-Off places.
And having been bottom of the division as recently as December, he has lauded how far his side have come over the last few months.
“After this, we’ve got seven massive games coming up," he added.
"We got asked a lot whether Wembley would be a distraction once we reached the final. We had a plan in place to ensure that it wasn’t, and now we don’t have anything else to think about.
“We’ve averaged two points per game of late, which is championship-winning form. We play effective football, whether we win 3-0 or we scrape a game 1-0. We’ve picked up a lot of points and we’ll continue to approach things the same way for the rest of the season.
“We had that run of defeats before Christmas, and to turn it around like we have is fantastic. Our aim was to win and achieve something this season. We’ve managed that now, so we’re going for the Play-Offs without that pressure.”