Barnsley FC 2 Millwall 1 - Incessant Reds smash past fifty-point mark

WHISPER it gently, but something special might just be happening at Oakwell.

Barnsley FC defender Michal Helik fires home the winner against Millwall. PICTURE: TONY JOHNSON.

This victory - a fifth on the spin at this level for the first time since September 1996 - has seen Barnsley achieve their first aim of the season, namely reaching fifty points, usually seen as the traditional marker for Championship survival

They have done that with 14 matches of the campaign still remaining and eclipsed last season’s point tally in the process. Remarkable is the word you are looking for.

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Spring is in the air and while this latest victory was not polished and picture-perfect, but it was stirring and hearty and incessant and what a story is starting to develop at Oakwell.

Barnsley are now pushing for the play-offs and don’t have to bother with issues at the other end of the table.

The sign of a top-six aspirant is that contributions come from across the board and that was in evidence here.

It came by virtue of a winning goal from Michal Helik just before the hour mark.

The big Pole lashed in his fifth goal in Reds colours and was just as emphatic in his defensive duties.

Strong in the second half, Barnsley emptied the tank yet again in trademark Valerien Ismael fashion. Millwall struggled to live with them on the resumption in terms of energy, despite a good first-half.

As many probably suspected at the outset, it proved a close and hard-fought contest for the most part.

An early flurry of goals hinted at a goal fest, but it descended into a scrappy affair which was frenetic but devoid of finesse. But the answers would eventually come from Barnsley.

Barnsley’s start could not have gone better.

A dangerous free-kick from Alex Mowatt was flicked on by Mads Andersen, with Cauley Woodrow nipping in as he has done countless times in his impressive career to stay alive to the second phrase and fire the ball home in front of the deserted Pontefract Road end with just two minutes on the clock. Woodrow reached ten league goals for the season in the process..

It was from another Mowatt set-piece that the second goal of the game arrived four minutes later.

His free-kick on the left was cleared by Millwall with the Lions breaking and Callum Brittain for a split-second to allow Jed Wallace to supply Bennett, whose pinpoint low angled finish restored parity very quickly.

It was a rip-roaring start, but the remainder of the half was not particularly enviable with not too much poise on show.

Barnsley posted sporadic danger with Carlton Morris glancing a header wide from Mowatt’s corner when he should have done better, while the big striker also drove at the Millwall backline short after before seeing his shot deflect off Shaun Hutchinson onto the roof of the net.

Callum Styles fired a low shot while Bennett and Mahlon Romeo were both prominent for the visitors, whose work-rate was every bit as intense as Barnsley’s.

Danger man Bennett threatened again five minutes into the second half, but fortunately his header was straight at Collins after he was left unmarked after being picked out by a whipped left-wing cross from Shaun Williams.

At the other end, another Mowatt set-piece hinted at a second goal, with his well-executed curling free-kick tipped over by Bartosz Bialkowski after Hutchinson was penalised for a foul on Styles.

Barnsley started to build up a nice head of steam, with Bialkowski beating off a half-volley from Woodrow with Brittain’s follow-up blocked by Scott Malone.

The hosts sustained the pressure from set-plays and were rewarded when Helik blasted home from close range after Millwall momentarily switched off from a centre with the assist again coming from Andersen.

Barnsley kept the intensity, while one or two Millwall players started to look a bit leggy in comparison as they struggled to keep up their energy levels of the first half.

But, to the credit, the Lions dug in and found a response with a viciously-struck cross-shot from Scott Malone beaten away by Collins before Bennett spurned an excellent chance to level after firing off target.

Play became scrappy, but the energy continued to be expended by those in red as they past fifty points for the season in relative comfort.

Barnsley: Collins; Sollbauer (Sibbick 45), Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Palmer (Halme 45), Mowatt, Styles (J Williams 81); Dike (Adeboyejo 75), Woodrow (Frieser 90), Morris. Substitutes unused: Walton, Kane, Chaplin, Oduor.

Millwall: Bialkowski; Romeo, Hutchinson, Pearce (Bodvarsson 85), Evans; Woods, Thompson (Smith 75), S Williams (Ferguson 85), Malone; J Wallace (Bradshaw 90); Bennett (Burey 85). Substitutes unused: Fielding, McNamara, Mitchell, Tiensia.

Referee: L Doughty (Lancashire).