As Jamie Vardy matched a Premier League record, Barnsley will have been delighted to avoid equalling one of their own, beating Oldham in the most dramatic of circumstances.
After eight losses in a row, a draw was all Lee Johnson’s team needed to not hit the club record of nine defeats on the spin on his return to Boundary Park. For his own security and Barnsley’s season, three points were in greater demand.
A defeat never seemed likely, not least after Conor Hourihane’s stunner to open the scoring. Yes, Mark Yeates’ equaliser temporarily halted the party, but debutant Kevin Long’s strike with only moments left of the 90 minutes got it going again.
Barnsley made two changes to the side that faced Port Vale, bringing defensive recruits Long and Aidan White in for Lewin Nyatanga and George Smith respectively.
A lack of familiarity at the back may have contributed to Oldham’s first opportunity of the afternoon, as a long punt down the field in the second minute found Dominic Poleon. A speedy reaction from Adam Davies, clearing from far out of his box, shut down the danger.
Marley Watkins could have had a sight of goal after seven minutes, but was forced wide and his shot was deflected out for a corner. From the resultant set-piece, an Adam Hammill cross was teed up perfectly for Watkins, but he could not reach the ball in the six-yard box.
The Tykes clearly had the better of the opening 15 minutes. Hammill was unlucky not to open the scoring, his effort from the edge of the area tipped onto the post by Joel Coleman. Burnley loanee Long then headed over from yards out, Hammill again the creator.
Hammill was at the centre of everything, and only a good save by Coleman stopped him after he beat a series of defenders, cutting inside from the left. Coleman’s parry was poor, but Marley Watkins, having beaten the keeper, had his shot blocked on the line.
As the game edged towards the half-hour mark, more stunning work from Hammill on the right, outfoxing Joseph Mills with tricky footwork, allowed him to create a chance for Conor Hourihane. It was no more than a chance, but Hourihane opened up his body before firing a left-footed strike straight into the top corner. Hourihane’s fourth of the season would be hard to top, a stunning effort just when Barnsley needed it most.
Barnsley could have been two ahead before the break, but Ivan Toney’s flicked header, yards out and in space, flew well wide. Two minutes later, Watkins had an effort blocked after Toney knocked down a header. Miscommunication between White and Davies could have given Oldham an undeserved equalise in added time. The Rotherham loanee headed past the onrushing goalkeeper, but the ball trickled out for a corner.
Chances were at a premium in the first 10 minutes of the second-half, but Cameron Dummigan should have scored after being fed in the area by Georgio Rasulo. Davies got down low to parry out.
Toney then came close to extending Barnsley’s lead, heading an effort against the bar after great work by Hammill. Johnson’s side were fortunate to have 11 on the pitch at that point, White lucky not to see a second yellow after throwing the ball away in a petulant manner.
Ben Pearson was another who will have counted his blessings not to see red. In the 70th minute, his late scything tackle only warranted a yellow when many would have dismissed him.
The win could have been secured in the 78th minute, Toney befuddling the Oldham back line with a series of stepovers before firing into the side netting. It was unfortunate, as only seconds later Mark Yeates came in from the left before firing home to give the Latics an equaliser.
It could have got worse for Barnsley, as Dummigan struck wide on his left five minutes later.
However, Johnson’s team never really deserved anything less than a win, and when Long fired home after a corner bobbled around the area, it gave the young manager a vital victory to halt a horrific run. It was no less than the Oakwell side merited.
Oldham: Coleman; Dummigan, B.Wilson, J.Wilson, Mills; Philliskirk, Kelly, Dieng (Fulton, 45), Rasulo (Higdon, 65), Yeates; Poleon.
Unused subs: Cornell, Eckersley, Brown, Winchester, Fuller.
Barnsley: Davies; Bree, Mawson, Long, White (Smith, 73); Hammill, Hourihane, Pearson, Isgrove (Winnall, 68); Watkins, Toney (Jackson, 84).
Unused subs: Townsend, Roberts, Nyatanga, Wabara.
Referee: G Salisbury (Lancashire)
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