The Owls came comfortably out on top in their final match of 2006 at Oakwell in the South Yorkshire derby, as goals from Wayne Andrews, Chris Brunt and Steve Maclean saw Brian Laws men move closer to the Championship play-off spots with a 3-0 victory.
The hosts billed the match as the biggest of their season, but the players in red failed to live up to expectations as they were swept aside by an owls side brimming with confidence following their impressive Boxing Day victory over high-flying Stoke City.
Owls boss Brian Laws kept faith with the same side that collected the points at Stoke – keeping Steve Maclean in attack alongside Marcus Tudgay, while Glenn Whelan continued in the centre of midfield with Kenny Lunt and Mark Crossley passed a late fitness test to take part against his hometown club.
Laws insisted his team must make a fast-paced start to the match to settle down and quieten the home support and the Owls took the early initiative as they linked the ball well in the attack and gave the hosts little possession to threaten at the other end.
And it was Wednesday who took the lead as early as the 11th minute as Wayne Andrews netted his first in an Owls shirt in front of the near 8,000 Wednesday fans behind the goal to send them, and his team-mates, barmy.
Steve Maclean provided the killer ball for Andrews to run at Barnsley right-back Neil Austin, and Andrews pulled wide before hitting a low shot inside Nick Colgan’s near post to make it 1-0.
The goal lifted Wednesday and they pinned the Reds in their own half before almost doubling their advantage as Madjid Bougherra saw a bullet header canon off the woodwork with Colgan beaten from a Chris Brunt corner.
But Barnsley have a brilliant record over the Owls in recent meetings at Oakwell and they posed their first threat on the Owls goal minutes later as Daniel Nardiello raced down the other end and forced Mark Crossley into a good save after beating Frank Simek.
The attack gave the hosts some confidence and they began to attack Crossley’s goal more often with Martin Devaney causing Wednesday, and Tommy Spurr all sorts of problems down the Barnsley right.
The young Owls left-back had been tipped for an England Under-21 call-up by manager Brian Laws, but had any scouts been in attendance at Oakwell they may have thought twice about coming to watch him again. Devaney was giving the youngster the run-around and looked Barnsley’s main threat at getting them back in to the game.
Devaney saw an effort fly over the bar before Grant McCann had a half-chance in front of goal and the on-loan Kyel Reid also came close for the hosts.
But that was as good as it got for Simon Davey’s men in a first-half that was controlled by Wednesday – who didn’t even have to get of first gear to take the lead in to the break against a poor Barnsley side.
Half-Time: Barnsley 0-1 Wednesday
Wednesday continued their plan of coming out for the second-half earlier than their opponents – and the game carried on in the same vein as the first had left off with Wednesday controlling possession and not letting Barnsley in to the flow of the game.
But Barnsley had to up their game and they duly did as the home crowd attempted to get behind their team to get some much needed points in the battle against the drop.
The on-loan Grant McCann again saw a long-range effort fly over the bar from 20 yards while Devaney continued to cause problems for Tommy Spurr on the right hand side as he sent a cross-come-shot just over Crossley’s goal.
But the Owls looked more dangerous in attack and they doubled their lead on the hour mark as Chris Brunt slid in at the far post to slot home a Marcus Tudgay cross after Steve Maclean threaded him through on goal.
And any hope of a Barnsley revival was put to bed just eight minutes later as Maclean turned from provider to goalscorer when he capitalised on an error from Barnsley captain to slot a low shot by Nick Colgan and make the points secure for Wednesday.
Barnsley continued to push forward in search of some pride but it wasn’t their day in front of goal as a number of crosses and free-kicks went harmlessly wide of goal.
They did have a geniune penalty appeal turned down with just over ten minutes to go as Daniel Nardiello got the better of Lee Bullen just inside the Wednesday box – but the referee waved away the Barnsley protests to the relief of the Owls skipper.
Deon Burton came close to putting the icing on the cake after he came on to replace Wayne Andrews, when he slow a close-range effort well blocked from Colgan, while Chris Brunt also had a good chance to make it a fabulous four for the Owls.
The victory lifts Wednesday closer to the Championship top six with another fine away performance while Simon Davey’s men will be left looking over their shoulders following a disappointing defeat.
Full-Time: Barnsley 0-3 Wednesday
Barnsley: Colgan; Hassell, Atkinson, Kay, Austin; Devaney, McCann, Williams (Tonge 88), K.Reid (Knight 64); Nardiello, Hayes (Richards 72). Subs: Heckingbottom, Letheren.
Wednesday: Crossley; Simek, Bougherra, Bullen, Spurr; Andrews (Burton 67), Whelan, Lunt, Brunt (O’Brien 83); MacLean (Folly 86), Tudgay. Subs: Adamson, Coughlan.
Did everything that he had to do against his home town club. Made the saves he had to and control his area well from set pieces.
Did he defensive duties well and posed his usual threat going forward, linking well with Tudgay in the second half especially.
The boy has a good future but he’s having a tough time at left-back and was given the run-around by Devaney at Oakwell.
Got away with a foul on Nardiello late-on but apart from that commanded the defence well and helped contribute to a clean-sheet.
Relatively quiet going forward, which isn’t really a bad thing, but defended well and was good in the air. Almost scored in the first-half but the woodwork denied him.
Vital Sheffield Wednesday man-of-the-match – great all-round performance!
Had a quiet game but passed the ball well and helped keep the flow of the Owls attacks going.
Impressing week after week which is good to see after an inconsistent start to the season. Great ball control and great long-ball passing.
Netted the first to put Wednesday on course for victory, but didn’t really test the Barnsley defence on any other occasions.
Energetic as ever in attack and was unlucky not to get a goal of his own. Assisted Wednesday’s second gal for Chris Brunt.
Making the starting position his own after two goals in successive games, and two assists to make him a close-runner to Whelan for man-of-the-match.
Did a job after coming on for Andrews and going in to the attack alongside Maclean. Almost grabbed a goal for himself but his effort was well saved by Nick Colgan.
Not much time to impress but did a job in the time he was on the field.
As above, did his job.
Brian Laws told BBC Sport:
‘I told the players that if they could match the passion and commitment of our fans then they would have a chance.
‘The fans are giving the team belief.
‘This is a league where a team that puts a run of results together can move up very quickly, so it’s all about finding consistency.’
Simon Davey told BBC Sport:
‘We’ve lost a derby at home and so it’s disappointing for the staff and the players.
‘It’s important now that we pick ourselves up and focus on playing Wolves on Monday.
‘Two basic individual errors have cost us and that’s disappointing for me and disappointing for the players.’