Energized by the return of Danny Wilson at Oakwell Barnsley were quick out of the blocks and controlled the early phases of the game with the away side settling down and soaking up some early pressure. After a nervy opening 10 minutes the first chance of the game fell to the home side after Kevin McNaughton's attempted back-header fell short. Andy Lonergan was quick off his line and cleverly smothered the ball at Chris O'Grady's feet.
After some early sparring another chance came on the 34th minute when Neil Danns curled a testing shot from 25 yards which was smartly saved by Tykes keeper Jason Steele. Despite the early pressure the home side hit back and started to pile on. An important intervention at the near post from Tim Ream helped to keep the score level while Andy Lonergan was the busier keeper in the first half. He was at his best to stop Jim O'Brien's drive from 25 yards out. He was in action again minutes later denying Chris O'Grady. A fairly tame first half ended on a high with scrappy goalmouth action happening at both ends.
Dougie Freedman must have said some wise words at half time because after the break what felt like a completely different team came out playing at a higher tempo. After dominating the possession and creating more it was only a matter of time before the dead-lock was broken and it came in the 64th minute. In what could be his last game in a white shirt loanee Neil Danns signed out in style and left Dougie Freedman a goodbye present that will live long in the memory. The Leicester City loanee found space on the edge of Barnsley's 18-yard box to cut inside and curl an ecquisite finish into the top corner of Jason Steele's goal.
This goal forced Danny Wilson into making a drastic change which involved a trio of substitutions with the attacking players like Paddy McCourt, Tomasz Cywka and Marcus Pederson. These changes seemed to have made a serious impact as the Tykes surged forward looking for something to salvage from the game. With 15 minutes to go both Barnsley players and fans screamed at Andy Haines appealing for a penalty after Stephen Dawson went down from Alex Baptiste's challenge which was waved away to the relief of the travelling faithful.
Despite a valiant late push from the home side and a very nervous 5 minutes of added time Andy Haines blew for full time giving the Wanderers a Christmas miracle, a win and clean sheet away from home. This may be the last time we see Kevin McNaughton and Neil Danns who will return to their respective clubs after two very successful loan spells, yet again we've fallen in love with something that isn't ours.
'Fan Favorite' Zat Knight had a solid game at the heart of the defence and has put himself in contention of a consecutive start against Leicester on Sunday. Despite his impressive performance our stand out performer could be found in the sticks, Andy Lonergan was superb today. He had an answer to all of Barnsley's questions and had an arguably faultless game.
This win leaves the Wanderers in 17th place and only 9 points off Leeds United in 6th place, a rare win on the road and a clean sheet has filled me with optimism which will be needed when we visit top of the league Leicester City on Sunday.