Johnson gives Irvine's Owls their wings

Barnsley 1 Sheffield Wednesday 2: Striker dreaming of play-offs after new manager starts reign with win on the road. By Jason Mellor
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The Independent Football

Thankfully for Sheffield Wednesday, Jermaine Johnson's mastery of a football is rather more impressive than his grip on mathematics. How else do you explain, other than perhaps taking positive thinking to new levels of absurdity, the Jamaican's assertion that the play-offs remain a realistic goal for a side sitting third from bottom?

The small matter of 16 points separate the Yorkshire club from the Championship's top six, but it is the single point which would now take them out of the bottom three that appears more pressing in the wake of ending their three-month wait for a victory at the 13th attempt.

Johnson's confidently dispatched sixth goal of the season settled a frenetic derby and ushered in Alan Irvine's era as manager with a victory.

The 53-point survival target set his side by the Scot seems a daunting enough prospect given Wednesday managed just four victories in the first half of the campaign, but Johnson is nothing but an optimist: "It might seem strange considering where we are in the table,'' he said after being converted from the wing to attack with great effect. "But I've still not given up on the top six. There's a belief we can get out of the relegation zone and get up there to fight for the play-offs."

Johnson is rather less off-beam in his bafflement at Preston's recent decision to dispense with Irvine's services, but is content that their loss is Wednesday's gain. "To be honest I never really thought they'd let him go, but it's great for us," he added.

After a first away win since August, complacency would not seem be the most obvious danger, but Irvine was keen to dampen the euphoria, citing a post-match complaint of writers' cramp as enough reason for his new charges not to get too carried away.

Play-off-chasing Johnson may take a little more convincing, but Irvine insisted: "There are plenty of things we need to do better. I'm a scribbler on the side and I had a lot scribbled down at the end. I quite often run out of paper so there's plenty to work on. It's a great start but that's all it is."

The visitors are following the example of their near neighbours, who are, relatively speaking, thriving after replacing Simon Davey with Mark Robins earlier this season, although the Oakwell feel-good factor was dampened by a third consecutive defeat.

Emil Hallfredsson's speculative cross ended up in the top corner to cancel out Tommy Spurr's opener for the visitors, and although Stephen Foster saw a header cleared off the line, Robins concedes that individual errors are costing his side dear. "We have to stop shooting ourselves in the foot," the manager admitted.

Barnsley (4-4-2) Steele; Shotton, Foster, Moore, Dickinson; Hammill, Doyle, Colace, Hallfredsson (Campbell-Ryce 65); Macken (Gray, 65), Bogdanovic (Hume, 65). Substitutes not used: Preece, Kozluk, Butterfield, De Silva.

Sheffield Wednesday (4-4-2) Grant; Buxton, Purse, Beevers, Spurr; Soares, Potter, O'Connor, Gray; Tudgay, Johnson (Sodje, 87). Substitutes not used: McAllister, Esajas, Lekaj, Simek, Boden, Jameson.

Referee: A Penn (West Midlands).

Booked: Barnsley Shotton; Sheffield Wednesday Potter, O'Connor.

Man of the match: Johnson.

Attendance : 17,844.