The weather was infinitely better and the memories will live long as Huddersfield Town and Barnsley fans teased each other before indulging in a delicious ‘love-in’ at the final whistle on a climatic afternoon which culminated in a chorus of ‘Yorkshire, Yorkshire’ after both secured their Championship status on the final day of the season.
On Saturday, rival fans again congregated in the South Stand, split between the Cowshed Loyals and the 2,270 visiting contingent.
Once more, there was mirth and ultimately unanimity, albeit in conditions which werechanged. The driving wind was relentless as was the persistent rain. There was no late spring sunshine.
Chants of ‘Barnsley get battered everywhere they go’ arrived at several interludes by Town patrons and those with gallows humour in the away end who have suffered greatly this season and were in attendance due to blind faith joined in.
Sadly, there’s a very good chance that both will not be seeing each other next season.
Huddersfield are on a journey again and Barnsley are stuck in a desperate, depressing cul-de-sac.
Almost exactly 41 years to the day, these two Yorkshire rivals met at Town’s old Leeds Road home in front of a huge crowd of just under 29,000 for a top-end third-tier league fixture in 1980-81. Terriers midfielder Dave Cowling grabbed the only goal of the game, with highlights of that fixture available on YouTube.
Then Yorkshire Television commentator Martin Tyler referenced two sides enjoying ‘remarkable seasons.’ The present-day Town and Barnsley are now, but for different reasons.
Huddersfield have rediscovered their ‘Terriers Spirit’.
Performance levels may fluctuate, but there is an honesty and wholesomeness among a set of players whose blue and white jerseys are invariably soaked in sweat at the final whistle.
They are also having some fun in the higher echelons of the Championship and are now through to the last 16 of the Cup.
Barnsley’s campaign is remarkable for a different reason. Barring something stupendous, they are destined for relegation to League One and their consistency in terms of away form is something anyone would wish to avoid.
The Reds’ last away success arrived in Huddersfield.
Unfortunately that transpired 18 games ago towards the end of 2020-21.
Whereas Barnsley’s class of the last campaign had focus, drive, intensity and conviction and everyone knew their jobs under an incomparable leader in Valerien Ismael, the current crop are tepid, tippy-tappy and rudderless. The cup offered a bit of a distraction, but it was the same old story.
Huddersfield prevailed and extended their unbeaten sequence to 12 matches in the process.
It was not pretty – in conditions like Saturday, it was never going to be – but the job was done.
On a day when quality was not in abundant supply, the telling moments arrived almost exclusively from Town.
The decisive moment happened 19 minutes in and it should have been no surprise that three of Town’s key players combined.
A purposeful pass from Sorba Thomas was met with a cushioned header from Josh Koroma, who teed up the supporting Duane Holmes for an instinctive finish.
Barnsley huffed and puffed in reply – and had little luck at the death for a second successive fixture when a ‘goal’ was harshly ruled out. Yet it was pretty comfortable for Huddersfield, if truth be told, against a Barnsley side who have not mustered a shot on target for 177 minutes.
Jordan Rhodes had no personal birthday present to savour after turning 32 on Saturday.
But it was a day which was all about the common cause. Town got through and deserved to.
Rhodes, who fired a first-half chance into the side-netting commented: “It was a matter of just getting through and getting the win. We could have maybe added to the one goal we scored, but the conditions did not allow that to happen. But it was a good win.”
Town made eight changes and there were six changes in the Barnsley line-up.
The continuity came from those in home jerseys.
Holmes’s fifth goal of the campaign was nicely taken, while Josh Koroma was thwarted twice by Jack Walton.
Barnsley’s best first-half moment arrived courtesy of a slice from Naby Sarr, who diverted Liam Kitching’s cross against his old post. On the day, debutant keeper Jamal Blackman had few other alarms.
Town, as is their wont sometimes, dropped off on the restart. This time, they got away with it.
Barnsley got better with the arrival of Carlton Morris and Josh Benson, but were still toothless, with Danel Sinani and fellow replacememt Danny Ward – who hit the post – and Thomas going close before Michal Helik’s header was ruled out for a perceived push by Amine Bassi on Matty Pearson. It looked soft.
When you are down at the bottom, it never rains, but pours.