Crucial win for Wednesday
Sheffield Wednesday posted a crucial three points against relegation rivals Barnsley after Chris O’Grady’s first half strike settled a hard-fought white rose clash.
The travelling triumph brought to a halt an alarming slump that sent Dave Jones’ men tumbling into the bottom three – and also, of equal importance – denied the Reds the chance to haul clear of danger.
The Owls were backed by a vocal 4,000 travelling throng that made the short hop to Oakwell for the basement battle and their side started well, albeit without causing the hosts’ backline any real concerns.
In fact, it was at the other end where the first action of note took place ten minutes in when Stephen Dawson unleashed a vicious drive from distance that Chris Kirkland did well to parry to safety.
Wednesday hit back with a Gary Madine header that flashed wide moments later as both teams began to settle into a typically scrappy derby contest.
Akos Buzsaky cleverly played Tomasz Cywka into space into the penalty area on the half hour mark but the latter sliced wide from what was a rare opening for the Tykes.
By and large, a fractious first half passed was passing by almost without incident – until the Owls stole into the lead on 35 minutes.
Lewis Buxton swung a deep cross into the danger zone that was spilled by Luke Steele under pressure from Madine and O’Grady was on hand to slot into an empty net.
The goal stung Barnsley into life, though, and former Owl Marcus Tudgay went close with a fierce header from Scott Golbourne’s accurate feed before half time came with Wednesday just about deserving their advantage.
The Owls kicked off the second period brightly and Michail Antonio tested Steele with a whistling daisycutter straight after the resumption.
Barnsley then suffered a blow when the talented Buzsaky made way for Perkins after seemingly picking up a knock.
But that negative almost turned into an instant positive when Perkins drilled a low free kick goalwards that Kirkland saved and the keeper needed the welcome assistance of Miguel Llera on the line to prevent an equaliser.
Undaunted, the Owls launched a counter and Madine headed into the arms of a relieved Steele following good work down the left by O’Grady.
The Tykes took a grip of the game as the second half unfolded and it developed into backs against the wall stuff for the visitors.
Wednesday soaked up the pressure well and Barnsley sent on ex-Owls trialist Marlon Harewood but it was fellow substitute Perkins who went close on 72 minutes with a fierce low drive that fizzed past the post.
Still Barnsley pressed and Kirkland came to the rescue with a smart save from Harewood before David Prutton cleared a Tudgay header off the line.
But ultimately it was too little too late for the home side as Wednesday emerged with all three points and a huge confidence boost to take into their festive fixtures.
Barnsley: Steele, Golbourne, Foster, Dawson, Cywka (O’Brien 61), Cranie, Greening (Harewood 67), Stones, Buzsaky (Perkins 48), Tudgay, Davies
Substitutes: Alnwick, Hassell, Wiseman, Done
Owls: Kirkland, Buxton, Llera, Gardner, Helan, Antonio, Lines (Sidibe 90), Prutton, J Johnson (Mayor 57), Madine (McCabe 68), O’Grady
Substitutes: Bywater, Taylor, Mattock, Maguire