Barnsley boss Danny Wilson wanted to celebrate his 1,000th game in charge as a manager with a much-needed win over Leyton Orient– and he duly got his pre Christmas wish.
His players, who have often blown hot and cold this season, delivered just when their manager needed them to.
It was fitting Wilson was able to raise a big smile after the final whistle, especially with his side having shown welcome signs of improvement in their last two matches.
And how the Reds needed three points after a dismal run of form which has seen them hovering in the bottom of the table for the last month.
Goals from Conor Hourihane and Devante Cole saw Wilson’s hit-and-miss brigade register their first win in League One for just over a month.
Irishman Hourihane made it eleven goals for the season as he continues to top the goal-scoring charts at Oakwell, while Manchester City loan marksman Cole bagged his seventh of the campaign – and first for seven games – to give Barnsley their first home win since beating Colchester United 3-2 on 14 November.
Victory also ended an unwanted of four games without a win in the league.
And, as Wilson believes, it has given the Reds welcome momentum going into a packed festive period, which starts with a cross Pennine clash with Preston North End on Boxing Day.
“We can see a bigger picture,” stressed Wilson, now only one of 24 managers to have been in charge for 1,000 or more games.
“We’re up and down like a fiddler’s elbow. But we know what we’re capable of doing and we believe in the players.”
“Yes, they [the players] are going to have bad days, but we are going to have good days as well. And we had that today.
“We had two great finishes for our goals. It’s great for players like Conor and Devante to be getting on the score-sheet, because they’ve not scored for a few games.
“It just makes my weekend to be honest, winning in my 1000th match as a manager.
“I am very proud to have reached this milestone, but everybody will remember the weekend for the win.
“All the ingredients of a really tough football match were there to be seen – and we showed great character and resilience to get the result at the end, especially when we went down to ten men.”
The Reds lost keeper Ross Turnbull to a red card with 16 minutes remaining, but they held firm and deserved their win having been in control throughout.
“Ross has been sent-off for a handball, but he seemed to think the ball had hit him in the chest,” revealed Wilson.
“I spoke to the referee and he’s adamant it was handball and so was one of his assistants.
“We are going to review the video tape and if we feel as though it did hit his chest, then we will appeal the decision.
“If we can’t get the evidence from the footage to prove it did hit his chest, then we won’t be able to appeal.
“However our keepers, Ross and Adam [Davies] when he came on, haven’t really had a save to make. We’ve been very strong.
“It’s not easy when you go down to ten men, but we held firm and defended great.
“Our back four have been immense for us.
“And we could have won 3-0 if Luke Berry’s chance had gone in near the end.
“That was a very pleasing result. We’ve had two very, very good performances in the last two games which will be great for confidence.”
Wilson made one change to his side which beat Conference outfit Chester 3-0 in the FA Cup second round at the Deva Stadium on Tuesday night.
Experienced defender Lewin Nyatanga fitted in at left-back and Reece Brown was dropped to the substitute’s bench.
And Wilson was able to pick the influential Peter Ramage – who had stitches for a head wound against Chester - to play alongside skipper Martin Cranie in the centre of defence.
The Reds looked assured at the back, with youngster Mason Holgate again impressing at right-back.
But it was the visitors who had the first, and their only chance of the first half, after six minutes.
Striker Shaun Batt gave the hosts an early warning when he shot wide of the left post with a left-foot curler.
However, Wilson’s side took control against opponents who had lost their last three games in a row and not won away from home in all competitions for two months.
Kane Hemmings volleyed wide from a Dale Jennings cross as the Reds threatened and then in the 13th minute Hourihane latched on to a Hemmings pass, coolly rounded O’s keeper Adam Legzdins, and fired the home side into the lead.
It was just the start Wilson’s team needed – and they didn’t look back.
James Bailey fired over as the Reds pressed for a second, before Luke Berry had to swap his entire strip – and return with an unflattering head bandage – after a clash of heads left him bloodied.
Not long after Jennings sent Cole tearing through on goal and the striker cleverly nutmegged Legzdins with a clinical finish to double the advantage.
New Leyton Orient manager Fabio Liverani, speaking through his interpreter the club’s goalkeeping coach Robert Gagliardi, admitted: “I was very disappointed with the manner of the first goal and the two goals we conceded.
“We worked hard in training all week, but it doesn’t matter when you let in goals like that.”
In the second half Hemmings blasted over and Berry had a sweet volley brilliantly blocked by Legzdins at his near post, while at the other end substitute Dean Cox dragged a right foot shot wide of the target and forced Turnbull to save from distance.
Turnbull was then sent-off for the first time October 2011, his last dismissal coming for former club Chelsea in a Carling Cup tie against Everton.
Only he will know why he decided to race out of his area to make a clearance, but either way he was caught out as Batt’s clever touch – from a Jobi McAnuff pass – resulted in a careless handball.
The O’s, though, like they had done all afternoon, failed to create a decent chance even with the Reds reduced to ten men.
n Meanwhile, goalscorer Hourihane was delighted to have netted his first goal for seven games as he took his league tally to ten for the season.
The former Plymouth Agyle striker has played in every game this season for the Reds and is starting to make a name for himself at Oakwell. “It was nice to get a win,” admitted Hourihane. “There were a lot of questions asked about us after a run of poor results, but we’ve had a good win against Chester and followed it up with a good win over Leyton Orient. It’s good to get back to winning ways. “I’ve had a few games without scoring, which was frustrating and it was getting to me a little bit.
“To get a goal at the weekend was nice, but it was a good team performance. Everybody put a shift in.