With 12 days remaining until Christmas, Barnsley are enjoying their first since win over Sheffield Wednesday since 2009.Valerien Ismael said it was a ‘Christmas present’ for the Barnsley fans. Doug O’Kane looks at the 12 gifts the Reds have bestowed on their supporters in the lead up to Christmas:
1 THING MISSING - THE FANS
Six months after their first win at Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road in 25 attempts across 70 years took place in front of an empty away end, Barnsley gained a very rare success at Hillsborough behind-closed-doors.
The only thing that would have made the day better would have been thousands of delirious Reds fans behind one goal, roaring their team to victory then escaping up Penistone Road to Barnsley.
However, just like the QPR win, more fans than ever before will have watched every kick because all 8,000 season ticket holders and any other paying iFollow customer would have had access to a live stream at home. Although none can say ‘I was there’, many will enjoy the bragging rights over Owls-supporting friends, family and colleagues.
A SUPERB 2ND BARNSLEY GOAL
Barnsley’s second goal was a wonderful team move. Callum Brittain and Matty James worked the ball nicely on the right then Brittain fizzed it infield to Woodrow who dummied then Conor Chaplin, about 25 yards out, brilliantly clipped a pass over the home defence for Dominic Frieser to run onto. The Austrian - given his first start in five games - brought the ball down and finished through the legs of Joe Wildsmith for his second Barnsley goal. He lived up to his name with the cool finish and joined a small club of players who have scored a Barnsley winner at Hillsborough along with Albert Newton in 1922, Ernie Hine in 1923, Beaumont Asquith in 1938, Johnny Kelly in 1946, Glyn Riley in 1979, Ronnie Glavin in 1983 and Jamal Campbell-Ryce in 2009.
It could be a career-changing moment for Frieser who will always be ‘the man who beat Wednesday at Hillsborough.’
The last time Barnsley visited Hillsborough, co-owner Paul Conway had just proclaimed the 2019 summer window the most successful in the club’s history.
That was proved to be false, as most of the 12 recruit struggled badly and several have now left the club. But last summer, they may not have recruited in the quantity many fans wanted, but those new players are proving their quality. Frieser got the winner while James and Brittain again showed they were wise recruits.
3 SOLID CENTRE-BACKS
Barnsley’s three centre-backs were subjected to an aerial bombardment for most of the game, but came through it well. Michael Sollbauer, Mads Andersen and Aapo Halme all had decent games, despite the latter falling over when defending one of countless long balls.
They were helped by those in front, alongside and behind them in a real team effort. Although the Reds did not play particularly well in the second half - and Ismael thought they dropped too deep - they had enough discipline and organisation to keep out a weak Wednesday attack who have had the fewest shots in the division.
Barnsley had a day less to prepare after coming through a gruelling Wednesday night clash with Wycombe 24 hours after the Owls lost at Huddersfield. Although they tired, the Reds battled bravely until the end and deservedly won the game.
4TH MINUTE DISASTER – THEN A FIGHTBACK
Four minutes in, a hopeful long ball over the top from Barry Bannan tempted Jack Walton to run out of his penalty area but he was beaten to it by Josh Windass who had got in front of Michael Sollbauer then rounded the goalkeeper before tapping into the empty net. Once he had come that far, Walton had to win the ball.
He got away with a very similar incident eight days earlier against Bournemouth while it was reminiscent of last year's trip to Hillsborough when, in the second minute, Cameron McGeehan gifted the Owls the ball and they opened the scoring.
It seemed like deja vu at a ground were Barnsley so often make things difficult for themselves. But, almost immediately after going behind, the Reds began to get on top and the equaliser followed five minutes of sustained pressure as they worked the ball wide nicely and tested their hosts with good crosses. Ismael said the Windass goal was ‘perfect’ for Barnsley as it focused them early and forced them to play with extra intensity.
The Reds showed great character to respond to adversity, just as they did when coming from behind to win at Birmingham earlier in the month and after Wycombe levelled with a controversial penalty last week.
As for Walton, he denied his former Barnsley club-mate Kaleem Harris and Windass early in the second half then touched a Joey Pelupessy shot onto the bar before the ball hit his back and the post.
Pelupessy had the Owls’ best chances to level as he also slipped in the box - like many players on a wet pitch throughout the game - when he looked set to fire in from a Harris pass.
5 CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS, WITH REDS COMING OUT ON TOP
There were five central midfielders on the pitch, but Barnsley’s two enjoyed dominance over Wednesday’s three for a crucial match-changing period.
Matty James and Alex Mowatt were like men possessed in the second half of the first half, wrestling control of the game from the hosts who tried to turn it into an aerial battle but saw their visitors get the ball down and cause them real problems.
James was outstanding in the first half, playing a key role in both goals and popping up all over the pitch in a live wire performance.
His influence faded after the break as the hosts’ long ball tactics had more success and the game became an ugly scrap - but he had done the damage before the interval.
6 POINTS OFF THE PLAY-OFFS
Barnsley are six points from the top six, and twice that distance away from the bottom three.
21 points from 11 games is promotion form
and it is understandable that the most positive fans will be dreaming of a special season which sees them compete for a place in the top flight.
It is too early to seriously discuss that - this is a team that stayed up in the final seconds last season - but that remarkable run to survival in the summer proves you cannot rule anything out completely for this talented young squad.
The Reds have been excellent against bottom half sides this season.
They beat Wednesday, Wycombe, Derby, Forest, QPR and Birmingham who are all in the bottom half, as well as draws with Coventry and Millwall – giving them 20 Points from a possible 24.
They have lost to top half sides Luton, Middlesbough, Blackburn, Brentford, Cardiff, Reading, Bournemouth – with draws against Stoke and Bristol City as well as a win over Watford.
After rounding out 2020 against sides below them in Preston, Huddersfield and Rotherham, January will see them take on promotion-chasers like Norwich, Swansea, Watford and Cardiff. That will be a test of their top half credentials.
January will also bring the transfer window which may define the season as the Reds look to strength in defence and attack while keeping hold of their stars.
The win at Hillsborough meant the Reds had won more games in 2020 than in 2019, despite last year’s record-breaking promotion.
7 WINS FOR ISMAEL
This was Valerien Ismael’s seventh win in his 11 matches as Barnsley head coach.
He was the first Reds boss to win six out of first ten games in more than a century, then the first to win at Hillsborough in six attempts under Daniel Stendel, Paul Heckingbottom, Danny Wilson, David Flitcroft and Simon Davey.
It has been a remarkable start, with the change in formation to 4-3-3 and a more direct style suiting this side who have totally bought into the philosophy of the former Bayern Munich centre-back.
There was a funny moment during the pitchside post-match interviews. Match-winner Dominik Frieser arrived in just a top, shorts and flipflops, despite a very low temperature. Ismael gave the player his coat, shouted at him in German and slapped him in the back of his head - all with a wry smile. That perfectly summed up the mixture of warmth and authority that has charmed the dressing room and fanbase over the last eight weeks.
8 X 2 IS 16
Sixteen is the amount of points Barnsley are clear of Sheffield Wednesday after this win.
That had to be shoehorned into this list even if 16 is too high a number to appear in it.
Even if the Owls had not been docked six points for this season, the gap would be in double figures.
That will bring great joy to Barnsley fans and, while there are sure to be plenty of twists and turns, their team look likely to finish above their neighbours at the end of the season.
Wednesday are bottom, with one win from their last 13 games but they had been unbeaten in four at home before this defeat. This was a seventh game without victory after the appointment of Tony Pulis - a firefighter manager who has been a damp squib so far.
While Ismael inherited a squad set up to play his style of football, with some small tweaks, Pulis seemed like a kneejerk reaction appointment who is desperately waiting for the January transfer window so he can get the team playing his way.
Pulis questioned his squad’s identity after the game but there are no such doubts for the Reds.
The visitors looked as though they knew exactly what they needed to do and were comfortable in their boss’ instructions and gameplan, as well as their individual roles. The same could not be said for Wednesday but they are likely to improve at some point so it was vital that the Reds did not let them up off the canvas yet, beating them as they did another struggling ‘big boy’ Derby County last month.
9 CAULEY WOODROW
Barnsley’s number nine Cauley Woodrow netted his 42nd goal in 95 games for the club which his eighth of the season in all competitions.
Five of his six league goals this season had been penalties but this was a classic poacher’s strike from what seemed to be a set piece routine straight off the training ground.
Matty James' left-wing corner was flicked on at the near post by Mads Andersen, who got between two defenders, then ex-Red Joe Wildsmith palmed the ball up into the air and Woodrow headed in almost on the line. It was the second time in 2020 that Woodrow had cancelled out a Josh Windass goal in the first half of this fixture. He was gifted his February goal at Oakwell by goalkeeper Cameron Dawson’s poor kick and this time a different Wednesday stopper made an error.
Overall, Woodrow produced an impressive performance as he often received the ball with his back to goal and turned his marker several times, starting attacks.
He led the pressing from the front and defended well from set pieces.
Woodrow also drew Wildsmith into a decent save midway through the second half with a low 22-yard shot after an excellent first touch. He then exchanged impressive one, two with Styles who also swapped passes with substitute Luke Thomas before his six-yard shot grazed the bar.
10 MILLION STRIKER THWARTED
Wednesday brought their £10million signing Jordan Rhodes off the bench in search of an equaliser.
The former Barnsley academy player, now 30, has 109 Championship goals in 300 games but just nine in 57 in three and a half years with the Owls.
He thought he should have had a penalty for an alleged foul on him by Michael Sollbauer but the referee waved his appeals away.
Rhodes - along with quiet £5million winger Adam Reach and £3million defender Josy Van Aken who was taken off at the break - are relics of a time when Wednesday splashed substantial cash on transfer fees while chasing the Premier League. They still have a significantly larger wagebill than the Reds but have created a squad with lots of defenders but few quality attackers. None of Wednesday's outfield starters were aged younger than 25 while they had made more than 1,500 Championship appearances between them, more than double the equivalent for their visitors.
11 AWAY POINTS
The Reds have 11 points away from home this season, in nine games.
It took them 17 matches until February to reach that tally on the road last season in which they had the second worst away record and no side scored fewer goals on their travels.
The difference between home and away games is clearly less stark without fans, but Barnsley are proving they can win wherever they play.
12 LONG YEARS OF WAITING OVER
It has been 12 derbies - and nearly 12 years - since Barnsley beat Sheffield Wednesday thanks to Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s fine goal at Hillsborough in February 2009. Since then, until this weekend, the fixture had brought nothing but a series of disappointments for the Reds - with bizarre goals, poor performances and refereeing controversy denying them time and again. But all the pain of Sam Winnall’s pitch-long celebration against his old club, red cards for Emmanuel Frimpong, Jacob Mellis and Adam Hammill and last-minute winners by Chris Maguire and Chris Brunt just made this victory even sweeter.
They had won just twice over their local rivals in 23 attempts across 19 years while they had won once at Hillsborough in 16 league games with 13 defeats since 1983.
When they last won this fixture, in 2009, none of the current Barnsley side had begun their professional careers and most of them were still at school.
They made history for their club and supporters in what was not a pretty game but the scoreline is a thing of beauty for Reds fans.