Barnsley FC 2 Huddersfield Town 1. Derby day bursts into life belatedly but it is Barnsley who claim a keynote win

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SOME games are bigger than others. Or so you would have thought.

This outing between two struggling Yorkshire rivals at either side of the Emley Moor mast has stuck out like a sore thumb for a few weeks; a derby which had the potential not just to administer some bragging rights to the victors, but also a bellwether one in the seasons of Barnsley and Huddersfield Town, which has nothing to do with their geographical proximity either.

Oakwell.

Oakwell.

On the evidence of the first-half, it was difficult to detect whether Huddersfield's players realised the game had a derby definition to it, such was their passivity in a performance that was wretched.

Oakwell is never a good place to go for away sides who turn out poor performances in front of big away followings. Huddersfield's players were greeted with boos and a bit of derision at the half-time whistle from their travelling hordes and the criticism was entirely justified.

For Barnsley, there was far more satisfaction. Those in red had almost exclusively displayed the intensity, urgency and poise on show. Gerhard Struber's assertion that the game came at the right time for his side seemed right on the money as his side deservedly led.

Without Jonathan Hogg in the centre ground, Huddersfield looked rudderless and Barnsley sensed the uncertainty in the away ranks.

Belatedly, Huddersfield - after a couple of interval changes including the entrance of Steve Mounie and the substitution of top-scorer Karlan Grant - took the hint on the resumption that this was a derby and a key fixture in their campaign and readjusted accordingly.

The blow of conceding a second goal when Conor Chaplin crowned his Championship player of the month award for December with his ninth goal in 12 games was quickly dispelled when Lewis O'Brien pulled one back with an instant and emphatic reply - and a sublime one.

Finally, finally, the derby had set alight and we had a game on our hands.

But the spoils belonged to Barnsley - and the gap between themselves and their near-neighbours in down to four points. Hold onto your hats.

The intent in the first half came from those in home jerseys.

It yielded an opener from Alex Mowatt which was crisp in its execution, but all too charitable from a Town perspective - just as Barnsley were benevolent in the reverse fixture at the John Smith's Stadium, which Huddersfield won 2-1.

A smart lofted diagonal pass from Mads Andersen, villain of the piece for the Reds at Huddersfield, picked out the impressive Jacob Brown, who had too much craft and agility for the toiling Jaden Brown, with his low cross cutting through Town's backline like a knife through butter and Mowatt obligingly tucking the ball home from close in.

Few clear-cut chances arrived up to the break, but the willingness to make things happen came from Barnsley.

Debutant Marcel Ritzmaier saw a deflected shot fly wide and Luke Thomas, who saw plenbty of the ball, fired over, with Town's only threatening moment coming from an all-too-familiar error from the flaky backline.

Bambo Diaby erred and Fraizer Campbell got away, but a fine saving challenge from a Huddersfield lad in Jordan Williams, denied his hometown club.

But whereas Huddersfield missed the authority of Hogg badly, Barnsley coped with the absence of Cauley Woodrow much better.

Having seen more than enough at the break, when he would have been justified in giving his side a dressing-room blast, Danny Cowley brought off a player whose cause to Town is seemingly inestimable in Grant alongside Jaden Brown, who was given a chasing by his namesake Jacob Brown in the first period.

Both were poor although their displays were not in isolation.

The entrance of Steve Mounie, in particular, provided a much-needed sugar rush for the big away following of 4,436.

Physically strong and a bully of centre-halves at his best, Mounie's introduction was thoroughly understandable as was his partnership with Campbell and Town's switch to 4-4-2.

The quality was slow to come to the fore, but at least the urgency was improved from Town - perhaps inspired by a tongue-lashing from their manager - while Barnsley's diminutive raiders possessed a semblance of threat on the counter.

That was manifested in a seemingly game-clinching second through man-of-the-moment Chaplin - following another assist from Jacob Brown - only for Town to throw the game back into the melting pot with an instant reply.

It would have come as no surprise that the lifeline was provided by O'Brien, with an unstoppable half-volley, with the midfielder being a big redeeming feature in a tough season for Town.
It proved a catalyst with Sami Radlinger keeping out Mounie's hooked shot at his near post before Campbell fired over as Town sensed indecision in those in red at last.

Soon after, Mounie blasted off target after a fine inswinging free-kick from Bacuna with an intruiging finale in store.

For Barnsley, it was about holding onto their precious gains and they managed to do that amid frenzied late pressure from Town.

Barnsley FC: Radlinger; J Williams, Diaby, Andersen, Odour; Halme, Ritzmaier; Jacob Brown, Thomas (Schmidt 87), Mowatt; Chaplin (Simoes 90). Substitutes unused: Collins, B Williams, Dougall, Bahre, Thiam.

Huddersfield Town: Grabara; Simpson (Koroma 64), Schindler, Stankovic, Jaden Brown (Hadergjonaj 45); Chalobah, Bacuna; Kachunga, O'Brien, Grant (Mounie 45); Campbell: Substitutes unused: Coleman, Edmonds-Green, Duhaney, Daly.

Referee: S Hooper (Wiltshire).

Attendance: 17,158 (4,436 Huddersfield Town supporters).