Keith Hill will get the sack tomorrow – but only to enable him to help Santa hand out presents at Barnsley’s annual festive visit to the local children’s hospital.
The Tykes manager, fresh from this derby defeat to neighbours Sheffield Wednesday which saw his side’s winless streak extend to 11 games, will take the Reds to Barnsley Hospital children’s ward.
While Hill will still be rueing this loss, courtesy of Chris O’Grady’s first-half strike, he knows tomorrow will bring a welcome blast of reality into the club.
“The biggest day of the week is visiting the children’s ward on Tuesday,” said Hill. “That’s really important to me as a family man.
“You get a sense of reality back. This is a job, it’s a great job, but it’s not life or death. It feels like it is sometimes.
“To visit the children’s hospital on Tuesday, it will show me and the rest of the players a taste of reality.”
The reality on Saturday was Barnsley were unlucky not to come away with something from the match.
Gary Madine collided with Reds goalkeeper Luke Steele in the build-up to the goal, but referee Stuart Attwell missed the foul.
He and his officials also failed to notice the lunging tackle on Madine by Stephen Foster which would have earned the defender a red card on another day.
The Owls striker hobbled on, but was later substituted with his injured knee and revealed on Twitter he feared the worst.
“Great three points from the boys,” said Madine. “Not going to lie, thought it was career over when Foster got me knee high. Thankfully it’s not too bad.”
Barnsley came away empty-handed as they spurned chance after chance, particularly in the second half when a combination of Tykes’ poor finishing and Owls’ last-ditch defending earned the visitors just their second clean sheet in the Championship this season.
The culprits were Marcus Tudgay, whose header over the bar when unmarked from six yards out was the worst of the lot, Marlon Harewood and Craig Davies.
Madine nearly opened the scoring when he headed just wide from Chris Lines’s free-kick, and Chris Kirkland had to be alert to claw away Stephen Dawson’s 25-yard effort. Akos Buzsaky picked out Tomasz Cywka with a wonderful slide-rule pass, but the Tykes midfielder fired wide with his first-time effort.
Then came the goal on 35 minutes. Lewis Buxton’s cross teased Steele to come but the goalkeeper was shunted by Madine and the ball dropped invitingly for O’Grady to stroke home.
Tudgay should have equalised straightaway, but he headed over Scott Goldbourne’s cross. The former Wednesday striker then turned provider only for Davies to flash his shot wide.
As the second half progressed, Wednesday dropped deeper and deeper, inviting pressure and were indebted to goal-line clearances from Miguel Llera and David Prutton.
First, Davies’s free-kick found Kirkland unsighted by Tudgay in front of him, and, as the ball squirmed towards goal, Llera booted it to safety.
Then Prutton was on hand to head off the line after Tudgay’s header looked destined for the goal.
Kirkland thwarted substitutes Harewood and David Perkins, then a swift free-kick saw Tudgay pull his cross behind the on-rushing Davies.
“I was really pleased with how we dominated possession in the second half. To a certain degree, Sheffield Wednesday sat, absorbed and tried to counter-attack and we did leave the back door open,” said Hill.
“But we had more than enough opportunities to get something out of the game. There were one or two penalty decisions which we didn’t get.
“I was pleased with how the players handled the occasion and I saw us strive to get something out of the game but, unfortunately, it didn’t materialise.”
Both managers felt referee Attwell had a poor game, although Owls chief Dave Jones did admit that his side finally enjoyed a change in fortunes.
“It was ugly, but well earned,” he said. “We had Lady Luck on our side for a change, but we deserved it because we battled hard.
“Gary has admitted that maybe he has barged the goalkeeper. We have not had that luck before but it was our time.
“We got the break (on Saturday); last week we battered Bristol City and didn’t get the break. This will give everybody a big lift. It might not be pretty; we have played far better than that and lost.”
What pleased Jones the most was the discipline and concentration from his team, which he believes was missing at times as they lost seven in a row.
“There is a good feeling in the camp,” he said. “We were scratching our heads as to why the run had been that long. On Saturday, they all did their jobs and when they don’t lose their concentration they are capable of getting a result.
“It just proves to certain individuals that if they listen and want to do it, then they can. It’s a dig at certain individuals because they have not listened but (at Oakwell) everyone concentrated.
“The defence was magnificent, every single one of them. But the people in front of them did their jobs, too. It was never going to be easy, never going to be pretty.”
O’Grady’s winner continued his recent form of scoring in Yorkshire derbies. Three of his seven goals last season came in White Rose battles, including the winner at Hillsborough in the Sheffield derby.
That proved to be Gary Megson’s last game as Owls chief in February, but the signs are this result will buy Jones more time to turn around Wednesday’s season.
“It’s just really pleasing,” said O’Grady. “I like these derby games, you do it for the fans. The main thing we had was luck. The last couple of games we have played really well and have lost goals in the last 10 minutes.”