A goal of true quality from Andy Kellett – his first for the club – and a late strike off the bench from Yanic Wildschut saw Gary Caldwell’s Latics back to winning ways after highly deserved victory on the road.
Latics looked superior virtually throughout the contest and had chances to score more goals . Marshalled superbly at the back and with a work ethic throughout the team that combined to nullify the home sides’ threat, the win sees Caldwell’s men climb back up to 5th place just as we enter the busy festive schedule.
Caldwell made four changes for the game. Skipper Craig Morgan was back after injury while there were recalls for Michael Jacobs, Donervon Daniels and a first league start for Kellett. Out went Yanic Wildschut, Craig Davies, Leon Barnett and Don Cowie. There was also a return on the bench for keeper Lee Nicholls after his loan spell at Bristol Rovers came to an end this week.
Despite having to withstand sustained early pressure, Latics went on to dominate the first half, going in at the break a goal to the good but it could have been more.
Will Grigg was the first to show when his effort from an angle inside the box after ten minutes was saved by Adam Davies, Kellett having set him up neatly. Grigg then just failed to get on the end of a Reece James cross from the left.
Kellett, operating centrally in a surprise move, was causing problems to the Barnsley defence with his speed and trickery and the finish for his goal on 18 minutes was outstanding.
He picked up the ball before playing a neat one-two with Jacobs on the edge of the box, and showed great composure to curl it into the far corner of Davies’ goal with his left foot as the keeper bore down on him.
Kellett found himself free again after 25 minutes, once again Jacobs the provider but on this occasion his touch evaded him as he prepared to shoot.
Latics picked up where they left off after the break, a superb move down the right hand side seeing Grigg set up Max Power, his looping shot from the edge of the box just flying wide of Davies’ far post.
Kellett had another chance on the hour mark, sent clear on goal by Jacobs on the break, his pace took him away from Barnsley centre half Kevin Long but with just Davies to beat, the keeper just managed to deflect the shot wide for a corner.
That was Kellett’s last contribution to a memorable first League start in Latics colours, Alex Revell replacing him a minute later, and he received a great ovation from the Latics fans behind Davies’ goal.
Barnsley had no choice but to throw numbers forward in search of an equaliser and Latics had to defend resolutely at times, but always looked threatening on the break. Revell and Jacobs almost combined to create one opening and the game was in the balance with 20 minutes left.
Barnsley’s main threat was down their left side, and Tim Chow replaced Donald Love in the 75th minute, a like for like swap in the wing back role.
As the game entered the final ten minutes, so Latics were penned back into their own half and Caldwell responded by replacing Grigg with Wildschut in the 84th minute – could his mazy skills make a difference in the final few minutes?
The answer was a most emphatic yes, as he took advantage of confusion between Davies and Lewin Nyatanga to barge past both with the ball and smash it home into the empty net to seal a hugely deserved win.