Coal was always king in Barnsley, but the crown will pass to Danny Wilson if he can clinch the club's first-ever promotion to Premiership level over the next three weeks. Victory over Oldham leaves Barnsley seven points clear of Wolves, needing two wins from the remaining four games to be certain of the second automatic place.
If Barnsley do gatecrash the corporate elite it will be as if Arthur Scargill's new Socialist Party had stormed the Commons. In terms of work- rate, Wilson's team reflect the town they represent, but there was no shortage of more sophisticated values in evidence last night.
John Hendrie, who eased the tension by breaking Oldham's resistance in first-half stoppage time, allied flashes of class to the experience of having played in three teams promoted to the top flight.
Hendrie found inspired support from Clint Marcelle. Despite being marked closely, Wilson's recruit from the Portuguese Second Division sealed the points with Barnsley's second goal on the hour.
Oldham, second from bottom, began in a manner which suggested they believed they could still beat the drop. Their only real chance came after four minutes, when Sean McCarthy lobbed wide after Stuart Barlow had pressured David Watson into fluffing his clearance with the net unguarded.
While a succession of fierce Oldham challenges were knocking lesser players out of their stride, Hendrie was starting to hit his. An exquisite reverse pass midway through the first half found Marcelle slipping his shadow, Craig Fleming, only for Gary Kelly to parry brilliantly both the initial shot and Neil Thompson's follow-up.
When Barnsley went ahead, it was from a route-one attack totally out of step with their push-and-run style. When Watson kicked long, Oldham let the ball drop into their area. Hendrie, evading Shaun Garnett, drilled his 16th goal in 34 games under Kelly's body.
Garnett was the intended target of a pass by Doug Hodgson, 40 yards from goal on the visitors' left. The ball, fatally, was placed far closer to Marcelle, whose precise shot into the top left corner entered the net off Kelly's outstretched hand. "Cheer up Mark McGhee," the Barnsley fans roared, confident that glory will follow the gloating.
Barnsley: (3-4-1-2) Watson; Moses, Shirtliff, De Zeeuw; Eaden, Josancic (Liddell, 75), Appleby, Thompson; Marcelle; Hendrie, Wilkinson. Substitutes not used: Jones, Bullock.
Oldham Athletic: (3-1-4-2) Kelly; Garnett, Snodin, Hodgson (Serrant, 69); Fleming; Rickers, Hughes (McNiven, 62), Duxbury, Reid; McCarthy (Ormondroyd, 83), Barlow.
Referee: K Linch (Knaresborough).Reuse content