FESTIVE cheer may have been in short supply as Adam Hammill saw red and a member from each coaching staff was banished to the stands as emotions boiled over in explosive fashion.
But, come the final whistle, the smiles being worn by those whose loyalties lie with Sheffield Wednesday told their own story.
The Owls’ vice-like grip on this derby at Hillsborough had continued with a 14th win in the last 16 meetings, a run that stretches back to the 1983-84 season that ended with Howard Wilkinson’s side clinching promotion to the top flight.
Whether the current crop can repeat that feat come May remains to be seen, but another derby win this weekend at home to Rotherham United will mean Carlos Carvalhal’s men occupying a play-off place at Christmas.
An own goal by Angus MacDonald and a rare strike from Sam Hutchinson settled matters in Wednesday’s favour.
This, though, tells only a fraction of a derby that was a slow burner for so long before exploding into life during a final half hour that saw chances flow at either end. Chaos then reigned following a clash between Hutchinson and Hammill that led to referee Peter Bankes dishing out more cards than a croupier.
Both players leapt into the 82nd-minute challenge that was the very epitome of 50-50. Both also left the floor and both went in with two feet to get the ball.
Hammill was the first to jump to his feet and berate Hutchinson for what he clearly felt had been a dangerous challenge.
Soon, a melee formed as players raced in from all directions. Bankes, clearly intent on preventing matters getting out of hand, quickly brandished a red card.
At first, the Merseyside official looked to have sent off Hutchinson. However, as the home fans in the 27,248 howled their protests, a different picture began to emerge.
Hammill, in fact, had been the player dismissed – a turn of events that left Reds manager Paul Heckingbottom incandescent with rage on the touchline.
Heckingbottom was soon following his player down the tunnel along with Wednesday assistant Lee Bullen.
It was a bizarre end to a derby that had seen Barnsley create enough chances to warrant making the short trip home with a point. The Reds certainly had enough chances on a night when they played some lovely football.
Unfortunately for Heckingbottom’s men, they came up against an inspired goalkeeper in Keiren Westwood.
The Republic of Ireland international pulled off several fine saves in a second half that had been a massive improvement on a cagey opening 45 minutes, whichended with the hosts fortunate to be ahead through that own goal.
A stunning cross-field pass from Hutchinson found Adam Reach wide on the right flank. He rolled the ball back to Liam Palmer, whose first time cross was met by Lucas Joao.
The Portuguese’s header, however, lacked any power and should have been easily cleared as it arrived in the six-yard box. Instead, McDonald stuck out a leg and nudged the ball beyond Adam Davies and into his own net.
That the derby had been still level before this was down to Westwood’s first save of the night to deny Tom Bradshaw.
Josh Scowen had started the move by dispossessing Barry Bannan, but, after being played through, Bradshaw’s first touch was sufficiently heavy for Westwood to race from his line and block the shot.
Bradshaw was again denied by Westwood just after the hour mark, the goalkeeper showing great positioning to keep his shot out after a slip by Glenn Loovens.
That came in the wake of Wednesday upping their own attacking effort in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Reach had been played in by Ross Wallace, but instead of shooting opted to square the ball and the danger was averted. Bannan then had an effort blocked, as did Steven Fletcher before the Scot then saw a goalbound effort hacked to safety.
Moments later, Tom Lees somehow stabbed a shot wide from a Wallace corner. But for Westwood’s agility in the 74th minute when he blocked a Stefan Payne back-heel after Hammill had raced clear, Lees’s profligacy would have proved costly.
As it was, Wednesday clinched the points six minutes later when Hutchinson netted only his second goal of the season after Barnsley failed to clear a corner.
That really should have been that in terms of drama, but Hammill’s red card just two minutes later brought chaos and confusion before Bankes belatedly restored order.
Sheffield Wednesday: Westwood; Palmer, Lees, Loovens, Pudil; Lee, Hutchinson, Bannan (Jones 67), Reach; Fletcher (Nuhiu 78), Joao (Wallace 55). Unused substitutes: Wildsmith, Semedo, Sasso, Hirst.
Barnsley: Davies; Bree, Roberts, McDonald, Yiadom; Scowen, Morsy (Hammill 69), Hourihane, Kent (Janko 79); Bradshaw (Payne 69), Winnall. Unused substitutes: Townsend, Evans, Kpekawa, Williams.
Referee: P Bankes (Merseyside).