There is a relentlessness about Valerien Ismael’s play-off chasing side and the longer the game went on, the more the pressure cranked up. The Terriers can probably count themselves lucky – though there was nothing fortunate about Naby Sarr’s brilliance on the line – that it was only 1-0, hard though they worked to keep it that way.
Their goal was beseiged by 21 shots – Ismael wanted greater ruthlessness from his players – with only five in return.
Ismael’s reaction to the full-time whistle showed it had not been a straight-forward night, roaring and punching the air. Huddersfield’s effort seemed to be channelled into damage limitation, just waiting for the end of the season, and hoping.
Just as Town were helped by Rotherham United’s defeat at home to Middlesbrough, so Reading dropping two points at Luton Town made Barnsley’s quest that little bit easier.
There is a grind about both Yorkshire clubs’ performances at the moment. The difference is that wearing you down with their sometimes head-spinning football is all part of the Barnsley plan. There is a grimness about Huddersfield’s – determined but seriously lacking in quality and inspiration.
It would be unfair to ignore the inventiveness in Barnsley’s “vertical” football. It may be direct, but it is not brainless.
The only goal of the game summed up the two sides to it, Carlton Morris producing a clever turn then ploughing towards the byline from where he produced a cross that deflected up and bounced around awkwardly before substitute Daryl Dike contorted his body to poke the ball in with an overhead kick.
Huddersfield named a back three and were able to bring back their targetman centre-forward Yaya Sanogo but were wisely not drawn into trying to out-long ball Barnsley. No one in the Championship does it better.
They were, though, looking to get in behind the visiting back three, mainly with balls chipped from the midfield to get Josh Koroma, on his first appearance since December’s hamstring injury, in behind Mads Andersen and Michal Helik.
When Helik was unable to cut out one such ball Michael Sollbauer needed to come across and produce an excellent tackle. Ten minutes later the forward was unable to take advantage of a pass by Duanne Holmes.
Koroma, though, could not possibly have 90 minutes in his legs, and was little seen in the 24 minutes he played after the break. Not that it was all about fitness – he did not exactly gorge on supply either.
Barnsley were out for kick-off about five minutes early, knocking passes around to stay loose, and Ryan Schofield had to make a point-blank save from Dominik Frieser but that apart they took a while to feel their way into the half and only briefly located their shooting boots.
When Frieser went off with what looked like a hamstring injury in first-half stoppage time, Barnsley just threw on heavier artillery in Dike. Cauley Woodrow kept a ball in the Terriers defence had given up for dead and shot narrowly beyond the far post from a tight angle, then produced a shot straight at Shofield. Like Frieser’s outside-of-the-boot poke when picked out by the centre-forward, it was never going to trouble the goalkeeper.
He could not be so sure about Alex Mowatt’s free-kick on the half-hour but it curled into the side netting and the captain missed the chance of the half, ballooning Woodrow’s pull-back as he lurked at the back of the box late in the first half.
On Barnsley rolled.
Woodrow started the second half with a shot deflected wide, Schofield tipped a Morris header wide, and saved when Dike cleverly redirected a shot from the midfielder, Rohan Palmer was unable to force a shot through the crowd.
Dike’s 66th-minute acrobatics did not open the floodgates. Morris was unable to get on the end of Callum Styles’s cross when the wing-back seemed to want the ball more, and Sarr twice headed off the line, Helik heading against the crossbar before the ball was clear from his first intervention.
Huddersfield had one second-half half chance, but Lewis O’Brien steered Sorba Thomas’s deflected cross at Schofield.
“At 1-0 it only takes one long ball but I was confident with the way the guys defended,” said Ismael.
It was the Terriers’ only shot on target all night. Barnsley are not in a charitable mood.
Huddersfield Town: Schofield, Edmonds-Green (Thomas 69), Keogh, Sarr; Rowe (High 58), Hogg, Bacuna (Eiting 77), O’Brien, Holmes (Aarons 77); Koroma (Ward 69), Sanogo. Unused substitutes: Stearman, Duhaney, Brown, Pereira.
Barnsley: Collins; Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, Mowatt, Palmer (J Williams 78), Styles; Frieser, Woodrow, Morris. Unused substitutes: Walton, Dike, Chaplin, Sibbick, Oduor, Halme, Adeboyejo, Moon.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham).
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