IT was little wonder that Reece Wabara wore a beaming smile as he met the media following the 100th start of his five-year career.
For he had come off the field after scoring a cracking 30-yard goal which, unsurprisingly, he described as his best as he had only three others to choose from.
It was a goal from the right-back just before the interval which will surely have done much to earn him a new contract in January when his current short-term deal expires.
And the 23-year-old former Doncaster defender believes he has still to hit peak form, having missed pre-season following his release from Rovers.
Reds chief Lee Johnson, who had made several big calls in team selection, had called on the Manchester City youth product to shoot more often and Wabara said: “It was a little bobbler of a pass from Conor (Hourihane) and I hit with a little fade and I could see it going in all the way although, to be fair, the keeper got very close before it hit the net.
“The manager is taking the credit after encouraging me to shoot more. First and foremost my job is to defend but if I can chip in with a few goals and assists it will help us go a long way, hopefully.
“Momentum and confidence in football go a long way so going into half-time 2-1 up we took it into the second half and scored two more goals, which was brilliant against a very good side.”
Of Johnson’s influence behind him signing on, Wabara continued: “The manager wants the best from everyone and demands it at all times which is good. You know that if you have a day off in training he’s going to be on you.
“He doesn’t tell you the good stuff, he’ll tell you the bad stuff which is important but when you need an arm round you he’ll give it you so on that basis he is really good.
“He was a massive factor in me coming here in the summer. He is a good individual coach and I think I needed that just to get some frailties out of my game and improve what I am good at as well.”
Johnson has built a young squad which he asserts will only improve and Wabara said: “It’s a bit hard to say that I am an experienced head at 23 but I know this league well. I think I am going to have to help some of the younger lads because they are going to have to mature and mature fast. We can’t be naive because this league is very difficult and we need to learn to mix it up.
“This was a massive win after losing to Shrewsbury when we were a bit naive. Hopefully we can continue the run at Blackppol as every game we go into now the manager says we have got to win. It’s that simple. We can’t expect anything less and we can’t play for draws.
“We all want to get promoted and everyone is on the same page and demand the best of ourselves. There is a big expectancy here and rightly so as we have some very good players.”
Defeat to Shrewsbury provoked a response from Johnson, who made four changes, one enforced with Dan Crowley suffering a slight tear to a thigh muscle.
One of the switches seemed to have backfired when goalkeeper Nick Townsend rushed out only to see Lewin Nyatanga head the ball over him from a long punt for a 20th-minute own goal.
Townsend, preferred to Adam Davies – “It’s a toss-up between the two at the moment,” explained Johnson – regained his composure and produced several noteworthy saves and interceptions against a slick Swindon.
However, it was Marley Watkins, given the nod up front in place of Sam Winnall, who soon put Barnsley level, racing onto Josh Scowen’s through ball to sidefoot home.
Winnall came on for Ryan Williams, who had run out of steam as he returns to fitness, before Wabara’s cracker sent the Reds into the break with spirits soaring.
Swindon made a couple of changes but Barnsley made it 3-1 when the outstanding Hourihane regained possession after his free-kick had been headed out and clipped the ball across for Nyatanga, restored to central defence from left-back, to head down and home to wipe out his earlier unfortunate strike.
Chances continued to fall at both ends but it was Hourihane who wrapped it up with the fourth in the 76th, tapping home from close range after Scowen had gone on an arcing run in the area before seeing his shot deflect onto the bar.
Barnsley: Townsend, Wabara (Bree 86), Mawson, Nyatanga, Smith; Scowen, Williams (Winnall 28), Scowen, Pearson, Hourihane, Harris (Jackson 79); Watkins. Unused substitutes: Davies, Roberts, Wilkinson, Digby.
Swindon Town: Vigouroux, Barry, Branco, Williams, Turnbull; Traore; Ajose, Rodgers, Kasim (Thompson 52), Robert (Ojamaa 46); Thomas. Unused substitutes: Belford, Smith, Stewart, Brophy, Balmy.
Referee: D Bond (Lancs).
Man of the match: Conor Hourihane.