Relieved Barnsley boss Lee Johnson felt compelled to thank club owner Patrick Cryne after his team had finally stopped the Sky Bet League One rot after eight straight defeats.
Johnson has come under some fearful fire thanks to the Reds’ worst run of league defeats since the late 1950s.
However, they came up trumps at last on Saturday, triumphing 2-1 at Johnson’s former club Oldham thanks to goals from the influential Conor Hourihane and a late winner from loanee debutant Kevin Long.
The three points weren’t quite enough to lift the Reds out of the drop zone, but Johnson said: “I’d like to thank the owner, and his family, for sticking with it, and not only sticking with me, supporting me when I needed supporting as far as players coming in has been concerned.
“We haven’t got a bad little squad here. We think we’re in a false position, but we have got to go and back this up with a couple more wins now.
“It’s been a difficult situation for everyone, so again I’d like to thank everyone from board level all the way through to the fans. It’s been hard, while saying that I don’t think we deserved to lose as many as we have lately. We’re certainly not as bad a side as our league position suggests.
“But we are where we are and I’ve had some long, lonely nights at home trying to work out what we need to do to swing the balance.
“It is only small margins, but here I felt we deserved to win.”
It is only one win for the Reds, but it was one that will hopefully provide a timely platform to build on, and give the players much-needed heart ahead of tomorrow’s next crunch test at Peterborough United.
“It is only one result, but We can all go into Tuesday with that refreshed confidence now,” added Johnson
It was bitterly cold at SportsDirect.com Park, with the reception afforded to Johnson also a little frosty when he took to the dugout just before kick-off.
The Reds boss had made two changes to his starting line-up in the wake of the latest reverse - a week earlier at home against Port Vale.
Both the new loan captures - eventual match-winner Long from Burnley and Aidan White from Rotherham - were drafted in to firm up the defence, with George Smith and Lewin Nyatanga being relegated to the bench.
Oldham had won their previous two games, though they hadn’t enjoyed a home league win since August.
Athletic boss David Dunn also made two alterations as Cameron Dummigan returned to the defence, and highly-rated young MK Dons loanee Giorgio Rasulo was handed a place up front in place of Blades loanee Michael Higdon, who was on the bench.
The conditions were awful but the Reds coped with them admirably in the first period and they deservedly led at the break.
They scored thanks to Conor Hourihane’s fourth of the season, but ought to have been further clear. Hourihane made the breakthrough after half-an-hour, smashing a slightly deflected effort into the top corner from 20 yards after being neatly teed up by James Bree.
The woodwork had saved Oldham in the 18th minute, with Adam Hammill seeing a low drive striking the post.
The Reds were also thwarted by a goal-line clearance from Dummigan when Marley Watkins fired in a shot from close range.
The visitors continued to dominate into the second period, with the woodwork again coming to Oldham’s rescue . Hammill was at the heart of the threat floating over a sweet cross for Ivan Toney, who headed against the bar.
Hammill curled a smart shot narrowly wide, before Oldham rallied and Danny Philliskirk went close to a leveller. The hosts did even it up with 12 minutes to go when Mark Yeates tucked ashot under the body of Adam Davies.
It was harsh on the Reds but frustration turned to elation as the game ticked towards the 90th minute when Long struck the deserved winner. A strike from sub Simeon Jackson was parried by Oldham ‘keeper Joel Coleman into the path of Long, who volleyed home clinically and emphatically from six yards.
At last, it was ‘job done’ for Johnson.
OLDHAM (4-4-1-1): Coleman 6; Dummigan 8, J Wilson 6, B Wilson 5, Mills 4; Philliskirk 5, Dieng 4 (Fulton 46, 6), Kelly 7, Yeates 7; Rasulo 5 (Higdon 65, 5); Poleon 6.Subs not used: Cornell, Winchester, Eckersley, Fuller, Brown.
SCORER: Yeates 78.
BOOKED: B Wilson (10), Yeates (88).
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies 7; Bree 6, Mawson 7, Long 8, A White 7 (G Smith 73, 6); Hammill 8, Pearson 6, Hourihane 8, Isgrove 5 (Winnall 68, 6); Toney 7 (Jackson 83, 5), Watkins 6.Subs not used: Townsend, Roberts, Nyatanga, Wabara.
SCORERS: Hourihane 30, Long 89.
BOOKED: Watkins (19), White (31), Pearson (71).
REF: Graham Salisbury (Preston).