Barnsley defender Michal Helik’s penchant for scoring important goals is firmly established in his homeland of Poland. It was not known in England, until now.
His two strikes on Saturday, including a 94th-minute winner as the Reds again exhibited their liking for a dramatic stoppage-time intervention, was the cue for ecstatic scenes among the hosts’ players and staff, including head coach Valerien Ismael.
Usually the epitome of cool and restraint, the Reds head coach cast aside his trademark reserve to celebrate with the best of them in one of the moments of the season so far for the Oakwell outfit, who are producing more comebacks than the late Frank Sinatra.
Rather than a number from Ol’ Blue Eyes, a medley of Paul McCartney’s Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time is probably more appropriate after Barnsley claimed their fifth win of a festive month to remember – with four having remarkably arrived after coming from behind.
It is a glorious trait to have. The sign of a good side is one who win without playing well and share the load out on the goalscoring front. At this time of year, it is about finding a way.
For Huddersfield Town, who have not enjoyed many fruitful episodes at Oakwell in recent years, it was a crushing denouement.
The pain was etched on the face of head coach Carlos Corberan after the game. Alongside the hurt, there was also anger from a perfectionist who makes it his business to be obsessive about the finer details of the game.
Town erred fatally twice and shipped two soft set-piece concessions in a game which they should have taken a point from. To do it once is careless, to do it twice is reprehensible.
There was conjecture about whether Herbie Kane’s long throw was legitimate. Yet there were no excuses for the way Town switched off after Mads Andersen won a second telling flick on and Helik nipped in between Rarmani Edmonds-Green and Harry Toffolo to steer the ball home.
Edmonds-Green had earlier cashed in on more set-play indecision to put Town in front with his first senior goal for the club as Barnsley conceded early for a fourth successive match.
But this day belonged to Helik.
He said: “It is the best feeling since I came here.
“One season, I scored eight goals in the Polish League and last season, I scored two goals against Legia Warsaw in the semi-final of the Polish Cup and it was also a good feeling. Now I have scored three goals for Barnsley and I am happy as my goals can help the team reach their points.
“My family were watching the game (in Poland). I did not speak with them (before) and my fiancé was watching at home, for sure.
“We showed that we are a group of young people who are hungry for good results and we really believed we could win until the end and the last seconds of the game.”
Helik was afforded the glory, but the contribution of his fellow central defender Andersen was no less important.
The Dane, enjoying a fine season, was dominant in his defensive duties. At the other end, Town struggled to cope with him and could not pin him down.
His early flick-on provided a chance for Cauley Woodrow, whose sharp header flew straight at Ryan Schofield, who soon made another key block to deny the Reds’ top-scorer from close in.
Andersen and Woodrow would play a big part in the Reds’ leveller eight minutes after Town opened the scoring when the hosts dozed off from a smart corner routine involving Isaac Mbenza, Toffolo and Carel Eiting.
The latter, who showed moments of quality on derby day, floated over a succulent cross which was turned in by Edmonds-Green, but Town’s enjoyment was short-lived.
Another tidy short corner ended with Matty James lofting over a deep cross which was headed back into the danger zone by the alert Woodrow.
Andersen won the next contact and his deflected header hit the woodwork and in his attempts to clear, Naby Sarr only proceeded to fire the ball against Helik, with the ball ricocheting in off the big Reds defender – with goalline technology ruling that the effort had crossed the line.
It was a scruffy goal, but they all count.
The game was finely poised at the break ahead of the weather making a turn for the worse. Unfortunately, it was the cue for the action to also deteriorate.
Town enjoyed a fair bit of control, but could not forge a second goal. Barnsley persisted.
Woodrow’s swerving drive was beaten away by Schofield, who also made a key save to keep out Conor Chaplin’s header.
But the Town custodian – left unprotected – was powerless to prevent Helik from producing the late drama as another page was penned in Barnsley’s arresting story under Ismael.
Barnsley have now won nine of their 14 games under the Frenchman and posted six home league victories already this term. They only managed seven in the whole of last season. Some tale.
Barnsley: Walton; Sollbauer, Helik, Andersen; Brittain, James (Kane 74), Mowatt (Palmer 87), Styles; Frieser (Adeboyejo 60), Woodrow (Miller 87), Chaplin (Thomas 74). Unused substitutes: Schmidt, Oduor, Moon, Collins.
Huddersfield: Schofield; Pipa, Edmonds-Green, Sarr, Toffolo; Hogg, Eiting (Pritchard 71), O’Brien, Bacuna; Mbenza (Diakhaby 81), Campbell. Unused substitutes: Hamer, Vallejo, Duhaney, Harratt, Crichlow, J Brown, Lowe.
Referee: D Webb (Co.Durham).
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