A third Huddersfield Town goal for Jermaine Beckford gave the Terriers a good 1-0 win at Barnsley in the npower Championship in front of almost 4,000 travelling supporters.
The Leicester loanee netted his goal late in the first half after an even opening to the game, but in the second half the Terriers showed the effectiveness of experience as they created plenty of chances and saw out the game without ‘keeper Alex Smithies ever being tested.
Backed by a sizeable away following, the navy-cladded Terriers burst out of the blocks and enjoyed some impressive opening moments – pinning the hosts into their half. Debutant Simon Church almost netted a quick-fire first for the Club when he picked up a lay-off from Jermaine Beckford inside the area, but his stinging shot was pushed around the post by home ‘keeper Luke Steele.
Keith Hill’s side came back at Town, with winger Tomasz Cywka seeing his long range drive blocked in typical sprawling fashion by skipper Peter Clarke in the 8th minute.
Joel Lynch had to pull off a superb defensive header soon after to clear Jacob Mellis’ expertly taken free-kick from the danger area with several home players in close attendance after momentum had carried a sliding Alex Smithies out of his area with the ball in his hands, earning him the first yellow card of the game.
Set piece specialist Mellis found the head of the experienced Marlon Harewood with his first corner in the 16th minute, but the burly forward directed the ball off target.
Jack Hunt was back in the side after his two match ban and showed Town fans what they had been missing a few minutes later with a pacey run from one end of the pitch to the other, but his low cross from the dead ball line narrowly evaded new boy Church at the near post.
Former Manchester City junior Kelvin Etuhu was partnering Harewood in attack for Barnsley and his runs into the channel had caused Town a few issues. The home strike duo combined in the 24th minute to setup a shooting chance for Harewood, but his 25 yard drive was easy pickings for Smithies.
The Tykes moved the ball nicely through midfield at times and were keeping Town honest at the back – with Scottish international Paul Dixon in particular covering his centre halves well on a couple of occasions during the first half.
Town were struggling to get hold of the ball at times, but just as Barnsley were enjoying their best spell Grayson’s men hit back, with Scannell firing wide from the edge of the box.
Grayson had switched Church and Novak by this stage, with the Reading loanee now operating in his favoured role of striker alongside Beckford. That proved to be a master-stoke when the Welsh international grabbed an assist for Town’s opener in the 36th minute.
Initially Scannell did well, driving between two Barnsley players before sliding a good reverse pass into Church’s path; he advanced down the left before crossing left-footed to the near post, where Jermaine Beckford had got across his marker and planted a powerful header past the stranded custodian.
The hosts created the final chance of the half when Etuhu combined with Cywka, but the former Wigan man powered his shot a couple of feet over the crossbar of Smithies and Town led at the interval.
Church had an early shot in the second half that the ‘keeper held before Barnsley enjoyed another period of possession without ever testing Smithies – the best they could do was a volley from Dawson that Clayton blocked well.
Danny Ward was brought on for the injured Jermaine Beckford on the hour mark and made a positive impact on the game against young full back Stones down the Town left. His excellent pressure out of possession forced an error from midfielder Dawson in the 62nd minute, who gifted possession to Novak; the striker advanced down the left before skilfully cutting inside Foster and bending a shot towards the far post – but somehow ‘keeper Steele got down to make a tremendous save.
Town were in the ascendancy at this stage, with Lynch heading a Ward corner over before Church powered a left foot half volley straight at the ‘keeper when Novak was screaming for the ball to his right.
Clayton soon had a volley blocked well by centre back Foster before Dixon tried to open his Town goal-scoring account in his 17th appearance – driving infield from the left and firing low at the goalkeeper from the edge of the box.
Barnsley’s best chance of the half came late on when sub Jim O’Brien sent a dipping long range volley over the bar, but the emergence of the experienced Alan Lee from the bench late on helped Town run down the clock and emerge from Oakwell victorious.
Town’s team vs. Barnsley (4-4-2):
Alex Smithies; Paul Dixon, Joel Lynch, Peter Clarke (c), Jack Hunt; Sean Scannell, Keith Southern, Adam Clayton, Simon Church; Lee Novak (Alan Lee 86), Jermaine Beckford (Danny Ward 59)
Ian Bennett, Calum Woods, Oliver Norwood, Anthony Gerrard, Adam Hammill
Town bookings: Alex Smithies (11), Simon Church (53)
Barnsley booking: Mido (64)