Owls edge Tykes out
Crucial second half goals from Gary Madine and Reda Johnson gave Wednesday a priceless win over local rivals Barnsley at Hillsborough.
In what proved a close and tense basement battle, the first conversion would always be key and it went the way of the Owls through the recalled Madine.
Reda Johnson claimed a second to all but seal victory before Madine missed a penalty and Lewis Buxton was sent off for two bookable offences.
Jacob Mellis then pulled one back for the visitors in stoppage time but it was too little too late for David Flitcroft’s men.
With both sides ensconced towards the foot of the table and the derby nature of the game, all the ingredients were in place for a full-blooded contest.
To add to the flavour, Dave Jones handed immediate debuts to new loan recruits Seyi Olofinjana and Stuart Holden, who formed the central midfield pairing.
The early exchanges were typically frantic and the Owls had the ball in the net inside five minutes through Leroy Lita but the strike was ruled out by an offside flag.
There was no hint of Barnsley settling for a point as the Tykes pressed forward and Jim O’Brien spurned a clear opportunity after good work down the right from Chris Dagnall.
After that bright start, though, the White Rose clash settled into a nip and tuck affair with chances at a premium at both ends.
But Wednesday had the edge and Reda Johnson hit a hopeful volley over the crossbar before Lita went close following a deep free kick from Buxton.
Dagnall and former Owls trialist Marlon Harewood had and missed Barnsley’s best openings of the first half seconds apart just before the break.
More guile was required for a breakthrough at either end and Miguel Llera provided exactly that five minutes into the second half with an accurate cross to Reda Johnson, whose low header was safely smothered by Luke Steele.
The Owls introduced Jermaine Johnson on the hour in a bid to unlock a resolute Reds rearguard but the Jamaican had barely been on the pitch before Barnsley almost went into the lead.
Little seemed on for substitute Reuben Nobie-Lazarus 25 yards from goal but the midfielder unleashed a blistering drive that was superbly diverted by Chris Kirkland at full stretch.
Fellow substitute Jason Scotland then called Kirkland into action as Barnsley upped the ante – but suddenly the Owls broke and stole into the lead on 64 minutes.
Buxton burst down the right to take a cute pass from Jermaine Johnson into his stride and the feed was perfect for the onrushing Madine to dispatch in front of the Kop.
Madine came close to doubling his tally five minutes later but was denied by Steele from close range and the Tykes’ keeper was then forced into action by Jermaine Johnson following a trademark mazy run by the pace ace.
But Wednesday were not to be thwarted in their pursuit of a second goal, which duly arrived on 77 minutes.
Llera swung a teasing free kick right into the mix and Reda Johnson was on hand to plant a firm header past Steele high into the net.
Still there was time for the Owls to extend their lead when they were awarded a penalty seven minutes from the end after Bobby Hassell handled in the box.
Madine stepped up and hit hard to Steele’s right only to miss the target.
And the drama wasn’t over yet – with two minutes to go, Buxton picked up a second yellow card to see red before Mellis halved the arrears in stoppage time with a thumping angled strike.
Barnsley pressed on for an equaliser but Wednesday held firm to post what could be one of their most significant wins of the season.
Owls: Kirkland, Buxton, Llera, Gardner, R Johnson, Helan, Olofinjana, Holden (Coke 62), Pugh (J Johnson 56), Madine, Lita (Maguire 82)
Unused substitutes: Bywater, Taylor, Prutton, Lee
Barnsley: Steele, O’Brien (Nobie-Lazurus 56), Perkins, Dagnall (Scotland 62), Etuhu, Wiseman, Kennedy, Craine, Harewood, Hassell, Mellis
Unused substitutes: Alnwick, Foster, Cywka, Rose, Dawson