Manchester United youngster Ashley Fletcher enhanced his hopes of becoming the latest academy graduate to break into the Old Trafford first team after scoring a decisive goal as Barnsley won the Football League Trophy with victory over Oxford United at Wembley. Fletcher put The Tykes into the lead for the first time mid-way through the second-half before Adam Hammill put the gloss on the win with a third.
Fletcher's first appearance at the home of English football had initially looked like being a harrowing one after Callum O'Dowda headed Michael Appleton's side ahead on 29 minutes. Chey Dunkley's own goal drew the south Yorkshire side level before Fletcher intervened; firing home after the ball rebounded off Ivan Toney.
Hammill curled home a sensational third from outside the box to put the League One side two goals clear and despite Danny Hylton's header 14 minutes from time setting up a grandstand finale Barnsley held on to claim their first piece of silverware since winning the League One play-offs in the 2005-06 season. Fletcher, 20, played a key role in the victory and the United man described the win as the "best moment" of his career.
"It is the best moment of my career at the moment," he said according to the Yorkshire Post. "Words can't describe situations like that. It had definitely been frustrating up until then. Oxford defended really well and handled me and Sam [Winnall], but when we get chances, we do put them away.
"There was a lot of emotion in my celebration. It is what you dream of as a boy really. Scoring in front of the Barnsley supporters was fantastic and I was visualising it in my mind on Saturday night. I didn't really get much sleep. It has paid off and I can say I have scored at Wembley."
Since joining Barnsley for the rest of the season in January, Fletcher has scored five goals in seventeen appearances for the side who are still chasing promotion back to the Championship. Having seen United boss Louis van Gaal give debuts to 14 academy youngsters during his time with the club, Fletcher has good reason to believe he could be the latest player handed an opportunity to impress when he returns at the end of the campaign.
After being overlooked earlier in the season for a starting berth in the United team following a succession of impressive displays for the club's youth sides, Fletcher will be hopeful that his performances will alert Van Gaal and prevent him making a big-money signing to supplement the attack.
Speaking in September, the former Bolton Wanderers academy player told United's official website: "I've watched him [Wilson] since we've been playing together, since Under-13s or Under-14s really, and seeing where he is at the moment, he's doing magnificently well.
"But now I'm hoping to follow in his footsteps in a way and replicate getting into that first team, hopefully getting my chance and who knows. Just looking at Paddy McNair and players like that, Andreas Pereira for instance, got their chance last year and took it. Hopefully, if I can get that one chance, I can prove to the boss that I am ready."