BARNSLEY and Sheffield Wednesday were battening down the hatches long before the first warnings regarding Storm Ciara.
The snowdrops and daffodil bulbs may be starting to bloom soon, but for the second successive February meeting at Oakwell between these neighbours, there was cold comfort heading into this particular fixture.
Almost two years to the day, these sides convened in Barnsley, having won just once at Championship level since Bonfire Night.
The statistics were not quite so bleak this time around, but Spring was most definitely not in the air among disgruntled fans of both clubs.
A fourth successive 1-1 draw left both with a feeling of being unfulfilled. For Barnsley, at least, the avoidance of a fourth straight defeat in all competitions was welcome. But as Gerhard Struber rightly pointed out afterwards, points are really the only thing that truly matters in their predicament.
The point will stand up better if the Reds beat Birmingham tomorrow. It remains a big if.
On Saturday’s evidence, Wednesday’s season does not look to be particularly going anywhere.
Without a win now in four Championship matches, Wednesday look destined for upper mid-table as opposed to the business positions unless something drastically changes soon.
The conviction that they showed in consummately professional derby victories at Leeds United and Huddersfield Town was nowhere to be seen.
In the reverse fixture, Steven Fletcher had schooled Barnsley’s naive backline. How Wednesday missed their talisman, with Connor Wickham – on his third Owls debut – looking decidedly rusty and others not stepping into the breach.
It was Barnsley who were afforded a moral victory of sorts even if their winless streak against their neighbours extended to 12 matches.
The defensive application was better and the togetherness and willingness to battle for each other from those in red was strikingly obvious in a performance far removed from their listless early-season defeat at Hillsborough.
This was a side not feeling sorry for themselves.
Handed his first Championship start, Elliot Simoes – a coltish winger who was striding out for FC United of Manchester last January – epitomised that spirit.
With senior players Alex Mowatt and Cauley Woodrow at the heart-beat, Barnsley showed there is relegation fight. Ultimately, the Reds may go down, but on this evidence, they will not go with a whimper.
Simoes said: “I enjoyed it a lot and it is something you always dream of – playing at a big stadium and a lot of fans. I am very happy, but it is just unfortunate we did not get a win.
“I thought I did well at Charlton, but I did not think I would be starting. After the gaffer spoke to me and said I was starting, it just shows how much he trusts me and it gives me a lot of confidence to go out there and play my football.
“I found out in the middle of the week. Most people think I get a bit nervous. But I just think this is football and just enjoy your football.”
On Barnsley’s predicament at the wrong end of the Championship, he added: “We are all aware of the gap and that is why games like this are really frustrating that we couldn’t get the win.
“But we all know we are good players and we have the motivation and heart and the gaffer tells us all the time to give 100 per cent and the results will come.”
Barnsley’s response to a soft concession that owed more to bad luck than a lack of defensive gumption was heartening. It was they who looked to have the cause and were probing and pushing for victory for the bulk of the second period as Wednesday meandered along.
A 16th-minute opener for the visitors should have provided the platform for Wednesday to take over. But their mojo was never truly in evidence at Oakwell.
Josh Windass’s introduction to the Owls faithful was a resounding one. A couple of rebounds off Luke Thomas and Mads Andersen saw the ball sit up obligingly for the loanee and his deadly low finish was one to be proud of and would have drawn nods of approval from his father Dean.
Barnsley dusted themselves down and while their leveller owed plenty to the failings of Cameron Dawson, few could doubt the validity of their equaliser in a first half when it was they who tried to make things happen in an offensive sense.
Following his error late on in the Cup game at QPR, Dawson’s latest blooper was just as gift-wrapped and bore similarities to a grave mistake in this fixture in April, 2017 by former Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies – which provided a ‘gimme’ to Wednesday striker Sam Winnall on his first Oakwell return.
Dawson’s clearance, under no pressure whatsoever, was lamentable. But credit Reds forward Woodrow for an alert reaction, like any good goal-poacher worth their salt.
He latched onto the loose ball in an instant before composing himself and tidily finishing from distance.
Conor Chaplin tested Dawson before the break ahead of the Wednesday custodian partially redeeming himself to thwart Jacob Brown, eyeing a goal against the side who had shown him the door as a 14-year-old.
Wednesday may have been stodgy, but still there was the lingering expression that they would produce one moment of telling quality on the resumption to perhaps decide the outcome.
It should have been delivered by debutant Alessio Da Cruz, the recipient of a glorious pass from Fernando Forestieri, but his aim in front of goal was wayward.
It was Barnsley who persisted, with vibrant substitute Callum Styles going close. Close, but no cigar for the hosts.