A HUGELY spirited performance saw tenacious Barnsley stop the inexorable charge of the Wolves’ promotion bandwagon with a gutsy point at Oakwell.
Unbeaten in the league since the end of October, the runaway leaders were matched every inch of the way for heart and commitment by the Reds and while their winless home streak extended to six matches, this was very much a point gained.
Both sides have chances to win it late on, with Wolves coming closest when Diogo Jota’s cracking strike shuddered the bar before the attacker something lifted the ball over an open net.
But Barnsley failed deserved their point against the champions-elect.
Barnsley fans were forced to be patient in their quest to see their first glimpse of newcomer Keiffer Moore in action, with the big striker kept in reserve on the bench before arriving midway through the second half.
Truth be told, the first-half action which they witnessed did not set the pulses racing, although Barnsley’s disciplined shape and stubborn refusal to be broken down by Wolves’ expensively-assembled cast proved worthy of some praise at the interval and the pragmatists may have gladly taken a goalless half-time scoreline.
They may have failed to create anything worthwhile in an attacking sense, in a half in which neither keeper was troubled, but their work-rate and spirit could not be faulted, more especially against high-flying, confident visitors, who boasted a 13-match unbeaten streak in all competitions, stretching back to October 28.
Used to getting their own way, Wolves - who were far from firing on all cylinders - were stymied by the resolute hosts, with Adam Davies protected well by an on-message back four.
It proved a scrappy, drab half, with play interrupted by several breaks in play due to players sporadically receiving attention, with Barnsley’s robust, but fair, approach not entirely to Wolves’ liking.
Flair players Jota and Helder Costa struggled to get behind the Reds rearguard, although you did get the distinct impression heading into the second-half that the visitors might just make the most of one moment of quality when it came along, playing in front of their 4,700 travelling contingent.
A sniff arrived moments into the second half, with Costa’s cross on the right picking out Barry Douglas, but he dragged an effort wide from a difficult angle.
Wolves did find the net a few minutes before the hour, but an offside flag was raised after Jota turned in Costa’s pull-back, before the game started to get a little more open.
A rare sight of goal saw Stevie Mallan fire straight at John Ruddy as home supporters started to call for the introduction of Moore.
They did not have long to wait with the forward entering the fray to a warm ovation.
At the other end, Wolves still struggled to piece together some belated quality, although it took an excellent last-ditch clearance from Dimitri Cavare to block Matt Doherty’s cross-shot, with Wanderers players lurching into the box.
Hammill then fired just wide after Ethan Pinnock flicked on Cavare’s long throw before Wolves went desperately close to a breakthrough when Jota’s thunderous strike shuddered the woodwork, with substitute Rafa Mir’s follow-up sailing over.
Jota soon had an inexplicable moment when he somehow scooped the ball over the bar from a yard out when it looks easier to score after a brilliant run and cross on the right from substitute Ivan Cavaleiro.
Both sides hunted for a winner late on and another substitute, in this case Reds midfielder, was the next to threaten when he skewed a shot wide after Moore teed up him following a low cross on the right from Brad Potts.
Barnsley: Davies, Cavare, Pinnock, Lindsay, Yiadom; Potts, Gardner, Mallan (Thiam 86); Isgrove (Moncur 46), Bradshaw (Moore 66), Hammill. Substitutes unused: Townsend, McCarthy, Pearson, Brown.
Ruddy, Bennett; Coady, Boly; Doherty, Saiss, Neves (N’Diaye 90), Douglas; Costa (Cavaleiro 64), Bonatini (Mir 73), Jota. Substitutes unused: Norris, Gibbs-White, Enobakhare, Hause.
Referee: K Stroud (Hampshire).
Attendance: 16,050 (4,701 Wolves supporters).