A look at the key elements of last night's 1-0 win for Barnsley at Huddersfield Town which put them six points clear in the play-off places with three matches left.
GOAL DOWN TO DIKE DEFTNESS AFTER BRITTAIN BRILLIANCE
Midway through the second half of a game Barnsley had dominated without taking the lead, there was a chaotic minute with both sides counter-attacking one after the other.
One Huddersfield break looked likely to result in an excellent chance as they had several men racing forward with most of Barnsley’s defenders at the other end following a set piece.
But Callum Brittain made a magnificent tackle to win the ball back for the Reds which was followed – roughly ten seconds later – by the winning goal.
Daryl Dike sent an ingenious overhead kick into the net for his ninth goal of the season. Juninho Bacuna should have cleared Carlton Morris’ deflected left-wing cross but he was the little Dutch boy who couldn’t stop the Dike from causing chaos.
Dike had been dropped to the bench after a bad game on Sunday but was much better when he came on for the injured Dominik Frieser late in the first half. Nine goals from 11 starts is a phenomenal return from a 20-year-old striker who seems to have everything required to play at the highest level.
Brittain deserves praise for his contribution to the goal and also for being a constant threat on the right – causing major issues for Duane Holmes, a central midfielder playing left wing-back for Town – then finishing the game in central midfield.
FIRED-UP REDS DOMINATE TAME TERRIERS
Before the first meeting of the season on Boxing Day, these clubs were level on points with 28.
Now the gap is 27 points and 14 places.
The fifth-bottom Terriers have collected the fewest Championship points in 2021 with three wins in their last 22 and are not yet mathematically safe from relegation while only Wycombe Wanderers have let in more goals.
It was a strange performance by Huddersfield who rested first choice full-backs Pipa and Harry Toffolo and also left out strikers Fraizer Campbell, an England international, and Isaac Mbenza who they signed for £11million.
Town were out minutes later than the Reds for both halves, including seconds before the 7.45pm start time – giving the impression that they were not as interested in the game and that remained after the whistle blew. Ismael called for a fast start after poor first halves in the previous two games and certainly got what he asked for.
Barnsley completed another double after also getting two wins over Wycombe, Birmingham and QPR, while it was their first victory in Huddersfield since the 2006 League One play-off semi-final.
If they continue to play like they did at the John Smith’s Stadium – but take more of their chances – Barnsley will certainly finish in the top six and have a genuine chance of winning the play-offs.
It was one of their best performances of the season and a fine reaction to Sunday’s loss at Coventry City.
The Reds were barely threatened – Town had one shot on target in the 80th minute – while they had 21 of 26 shots and seven of the eight efforts on target.
Huddersfield were thrashed 7-0 by leaders Norwich City two weeks ago and Barnsley, had they been extremely ruthless, could have come close to that scoreline or their own 7-1 thrashing of the Terriers in 1998.
Playing some impressive football but also carrying their usual set piece threat, they hit the bar three times, saw two shots cleared off the line and fired several gilt-edged chances off target or too close to the goalkeeper.
Carlton Morris and Cauley Woodrow both could have bagged braces while Alex Mowatt and Michal Helik should have scored.
With five minutes left, home captain Jonathan Hogg’s bad back pass put Dike clean through but he was denied one-on-one by Schofield. That seemed to show Huddersfield had collapsed under the relentless pressure applied by their visitors who had pressed them into errors early on then bombarded them with crosses and set pieces later in the game.
Michael Sollbauer came into the side for Toby Sibbick and was called man of the match by Valerien Ismael after a superb performance.
He made the most tackles with six and provided real leadership in a crucial match.
When Michal Helik – who was otherwise solid as was Mads Andersen – missed the ball midway through the first half and set Josh Koroma sprinting through on goal, Sollbauer made a fine block in his box.
The back three dealt well with the physical Yaya Sanogo who played for Arsenal in the Premier League and helped them win the 2014 FA Cup final. He sent one difficult header well wide in the first half.
Sollbauer did make a mistake of his own in the 80th minute, slicing an attempted clearance from a right-wing cross to Lewis O’Brien who smashed his 15-yard short straight at Brad Collins. He admitted he had ‘a bit of luck’ but overall it was an excellent display.
Sibbick has also been very good recently and Ismael can choose between two valuable options on the right of his back three, selecting Sollbauer when he wants more leadership and experience and Sibbick when he requires more pace.
MORRIS MAKES BIG IMPACT ON RARE START
Ismael also has options up front.
Carlton Morris made his first start since February, following ten successive substitute appearances, and should be a fixture in the 11 based on this display. He was very unlucky not to score at least one goal and was a total nuisance for the home defence in a very impressive display, which was capped by the cross for the winner.
Morris and Cauley Woodrow – who was also very good – seemed constantly on the cusp of a goal or assist and, although they will need better finishing, their overall displays were very encouraging.
Woodrow was nominally in a central position until Dike came on, and Morris on the left of the front three, but they were both extremely fluid and mobile which tormented the home defence.
With Dominik Frieser injured and both Conor Chaplin and Victor Adeboyejo inconsistent, the head coach must be tempted to play his three top-scoring strikers Woodrow, Dike and Morris together against Rotherham on Saturday. He has often left at least one on the bench for provide options in the second half but that trio has the ability to put the Reds in control early on.