Barnsley’s alarming run of defeats was finally ended as they came from behind to beat York and seal a place in the northern semi-final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
And Adam Hammill proved to be the returning hero for under-fire boss Lee Johnson and his team, creating one goal and scoring a wonderful winner with just six minutes to go.
Spirits needed a big lift at Oakwell after Saturday’s embarrassing FA Cup exit at minnows Altrincham, and after six straight defeats the Reds hopefully now have lift-off once again.
Confidence will surely rocket ahead of this weekend’s League One test against Port Vale, the competition that truly matters for Johnson as the Reds will bid to escape the drop zone.
A Barnsley side, featuring the maximum five changes permitted for the Trophy competition, opened the game brightly.
In particular Hammill, now back with the Reds and straight in for a second debut the day after re-signing for the club, looked lively and he was soon to test York’s former Barnsley ‘keeper Scott Flinders.
Hammill’s dipping effort forced Flinders to back-track and tip the ball just over the crossbar.
Front-man Ivan Toney, making his debut following his 28-day loan switch from Newcastle, then came close to breaking the deadlock when he fizzed a 20-yard drive inches past the post after playing a smart one-two with the recalled Simeon Jackson.
The meagre Oakwell support appeared appreciative in those early stages, and the chances kept coming.
Southampton loanee Lloyd Isgrove forced Flinders into a splendid full-length stop, before the woodwork came to York’s rescue after 18 minutes.
Again the exciting Toney found space just outside the visitors’ box before crossing for Isgrove, who cracked in a shot which struck the crossbar before the ball flew to safety.The Reds were well on top by the end of the opening quarter of the game, but the crucial breakthrough was still proving elusive.
They were almost stunned by a York opener in the 24th minute.
Ben Godfrey robbed Ben Pearson just outside the box before unleashed a well-struck shot that Adam Davies saved well.
Davies was forced to save the Reds again minutes later. This time skipper Alfie Mawson had his pocket picked by Godfrey, who went on to cross in for former Red Michael Coulson. Thankfully the Reds’ ‘keeper was alert on his line and was equal to the shot.
There then followed a spell leading up to the break when both sides appeared to lack the creativity required.
That was until Jackson made a darting run towards the York penalty area, only to then fire a shot woefully wide of the target.
Disaster struck for the Reds five minutes before the interval when York took the lead, slightly against the run of play.
It was a memorable strike, though, from that man Coulson, who struck home a brilliant free-kick from 30 yards.
Davies got fingertips to the effort, but the ball flew into the net and the boo’s that greeted the half-time whistle can’t have been easy for boss Johnson to take once again. There were no changes for either side at the break, and the Reds did have the first opportunity of the second period when Mawson headed straight at the grateful Flinders. An awful, miscued strike from Reece Wabara summed up the night so far on the hour mark for Barnsley.
They were struggling and desperate for that elusive spark, while York were no doubt content to defend stoutly and repel the precious little that was being thrown at them.
That was until the 67th minute, when the Reds finally got the goal they had been craving.
It was Pearson who levelled matters to the relief of Johnson and the home fans, nodding home Hammill’s deep cross at the far post.
Suddenly the Reds appeared revitalised, and sub Sam Winnall almost made it 2-1 when smashing an effort wide.
York responded in kind with Vadaine Oliver stinging the palms of Davies, and with 20 minutes to go both sides were now gunning for that Trophy last four spot.
It was left to Hammill to seal the Reds’ progress, however, smashing into the top corner from 20 yards for a 2-1 winner.
Barnsley: Davies, Wabara, Mawson, Nyatanga, G Smith, Hammill, Toney (White 82), Pearson. Hourihane, Isgrove, Jackson (Winnall 69).
Subs not used: Townsend, Bree, Roberts.
Yellow cards: Wabara (88), Hammill (90).
York: Flinders, McCoy, Swan, Ilesanmi, Nolan, Collins, Godfrey (Tutonda 49), Berrett, Sinclair (Straker 65), Oliver (Hyde 75), Coulson.
Subs not used: Ingham, Winfield.
Yellow cards: McCoy (14), Godfrey (26).
Referee: David Webb (Lancashire).
Star man: Adam Hammill.