THE post-match meal of choice for Barnsley’s jubilant players and staff should have been a turkey dinner.
Not to celebrate the fact that Christmas came early with the most special of afternoons as they dined out at Hull City’s expense, but more in the spirit of thanksgiving.
Millions of folk across the Pond had tucked into a turkey meal for their Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday and two days on, Barnsley administered a stuffing to their Yorkshire rivals and were similarly ravenous.
Finally, the Reds managed to score two goals or more in a game this season – for the seventh time in 2019-20 no less – and see a game out to provide themselves with a precious three points. It has been a long time in coming.
When these two Yorkshire sides previously met at Oakwell in October 2017, Hull had lanced a significant boil by way of securing their first away victory in 427 days after an epic run of 24 games without a win.
This time, it was Barnsley’s turn to rid themselves of a wretched statistic after claiming their first triumph in 19 games in all competitions – or 119 days if you prefer.
By contrast, Hull were inhibited, off it and passive by their high standards.Leon Wobschall
They ultimately did it in style, even accounting for a customary wobble. Given Barnsley’s season, it was never going to be wholly straightforward.
The crescendo of joy when Conor Chaplin slammed in the hosts’ third deep in stoppage-time to seal it was heartfelt – and for Gerhard Struber, there was a time to smile and briefly relax after an eventful and emotional first game in charge at Oakwell.
Alongside eliminating costly mistakes in his side’s DNA, the Austrian had stressed the importance of his players finding some inner strength, confidence and fight amid Barnsley’s ailing season and here they gloriously found some.
Whisper it gently, but Barnsley looked a team again. Battles were won across the pitch, the intensity and energy was abundant and baring a couple of defensive slips, so was the organisation.
By contrast, Hull were inhibited, off it and passive by their high standards. They had been here before too, in their recent first-half at Middlesbrough and in a similarly limp 3-0 defeat at nearby Huddersfield Town.
On his previous visit to Oakwell, Grant McCann had cut a disappointed figure afterwards.
That was all to do with his Doncaster Rovers side failing to register the win they deserved in a 1-1 draw last November. Here, it was everything to do with Hull’s performance which lacked bravery on the ball, in his words.
The valour came from all those in red and with it came the prospect of Saturday’s result yielding a much-needed turning point in the club’s campaign.
Mike Bahre, who scored a tasty second goal for the hosts after being slotted in beautifully by the immaculate Alex Mowatt 15 minutes from time, said: “Just to get that feeling of winning a game was what we needed.
“It did not matter how, we just needed that one win and I am confident it can be a turning point.
“We have had some good performances, but not results and everyone was in the changing room and upset and disappointed. But here we showed great faith and everyone is buzzing, it is the best feeling.
“Everybody was working for each other and if we carry on in this way, I am still confident we will stay in this league.”
On an afternoon when Barnsley took responsibility, it was their captain and class act in Mowatt, who set the example and got the ball rolling.
Teed up by Bahre, the midfield showcased his gem of a left foot with a technically perfect and exquisite curler to put the hosts in front in a first half when Hull slipped into bad habits.
The tempo came from the hosts, who erred just the once when the visitors’ main man in Jarrod Bowen found himself in the clear, only to see his dinked shot trickle wide instead of nestling in the net.
It proved a big moment and was the sort of fortune that has failed to befriend Barnsley for much of this season.
Hull, who brought on Tom Eaves to add some much-needed physicality at the interval, upped it on the restart on an afternoon when the result would plainly hinge on whether Barnsley’s much-criticised defence were able to withstand a period of pressure from their opponents.
They did that, by and large, although they were afforded another significant let-off when the onrushing Jackson Irvine steered a shot just wide after Eaves got away down the left.
Played in by a smart pass by Mowatt, Bahre was not so wasteful when he tucked away a precision low shot to seemingly settle it, but the game was soon back in the melting pot.
Kamil Grosicki’s dangerous cross on the left was headed towards goal by Eaves, with Keane Lewis-Potter, a teenager with a seriously bright future, nodding the ball over the line for his maiden goal in professional football.
It left Barnsley fearful of another kick in the solar plexus, but this time it was their day, reinforced when Chaplin emphatically blasted home.
Barnsley: Radlinger; J Williams, Diaby, Andersen, B Williams; Halme; Bahre (Thomas 82), Mowatt, Woodrow (Schmidt 89); Chaplin, Brown. Unused substitutes: Collins, Dougall, Sibbick, Oduor, Thiam.
Hull City: Long; Lichaj, Burke, De Wijs, Elder (Lewis-Potter 76); Honeyman, Batty (Eaves 45), Irvine; Bowler, Honeyman (Lopes 45), Grosicki; Bowen. Unused substitutes: Ingram, Tafazolli, Kingsley, Pennington.
Referee: J Brooks (Leicestershire).