Southampton were also ingenerous mood, especially in a thrilling first period. The prospect of victory had the young Barnsley nerves jangling but their first-half flair, backed by a sterling spirit, was just sufficient. The focus of the Barnsley revival has undeniably been Ashley Ward. "I think he has been at the hub of everything we have done. If he had not been in our side I think we would be down by now," Wilson confessed.
Barnsley were forced to battle without their hero who was substituted in the first half with hamstring trouble. The striker had, though, already played a key role in nudging his side ahead. His opener, evading the close attentions of Claus Lundekvam and sliding a low shot into the corner, typified his combined strength and trickery.
Similar qualities forced the corner which resulted in Barnsley's second, Scott Jones charging into the area to power home a header. In between, Southampton's Egil Ostenstad had demonstrated his own proficiency as a target man with a precise drive.
Poor marking allowed Matt Le Tissier to plant another emphatic header from Jason Dodds' flighted cross but Barnsley's retaliation was immediate, Martin Bullock dancing past Ken Monkou to feed Jan Age Fjortoft. A deft first touch engineered enough space to force his strike high inside the near post.
That momentum was carried into the second half, aided by a fiercely challenged penalty ruling by Gerald Ashby. Lundekvam was penalised for wrestling with Fjortoft. Neil Redfearn's conversion, touched by the Saints goalkeeper, Paul Jones, was not as emphatic as Southampton's final retort. Le Tissier curled a set-piece free-kick around the wall to set up a storming finale.
The Southampton manager, David Jones, was critical of both the referee and his defenders. "He told me beforehand this was his last game. I just wish the referee had retired before it. I thought he had a poor game but he didn't cost us the game," Jones said. Wilson again accentuated the positive: "The goodwill has been fantastic. It gives us a bit of extra confidence."Reuse content