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Great start for Al as Owls beat Tykes
Published : 16 Jan 2010 17:25:14
Irvine, installed as Brian Laws' successor at Hillsborough on January 8, saw first-half goals from Tommy Spurr and Jermaine Johnson settle an absorbing South Yorkshire derby at Oakwell. Emil Hallfredsson had threatened to spoil the Wednesday party in between with a lucky equaliser for Barnsley, but Irvine and Wednesday's long-suffering fans celebrated the Owls' first Championship win in 12 matches. Rival fans threatened to spill out of their respective stands in the closing stages as emotions ran high, but police ensured the day belonged to Irvine. Not since a 2-1 home win over Coventry on October 17 had Wednesday collected three points and their slide into the bottom three cost Laws his job. But Tommy Spurr gave Irvine, surprisingly sacked by Preston 10 days before being handed the job at Hillsborough, a dream start when the defender fired home from close range in the third minute and after Hallfredsson levelled soon after, Johnson slammed home a stunning 21st-minute volley for what proved to be the winner. Barnsley have made steady progress since manager Mark Robins' arrival in September, but their climb towards the play-offs has faltered following their second successive league defeat. Bobby Hassell and Anderson De Silva made way for Adam Hammill and Nathan Doyle in Barnsley's line-up, while Irvine tinkered with Wednesday's starting XI as Lewis Buxton, Johnson and Michael Gray all returned to the side. Wednesday forced two corners in the opening exchanges and gave Irvine the perfect start by taking the lead from the second. Gray swung the ball in and after Barnsley goalkeeper Luke Steele failed to gather, Spurr turned the ball home from no more than three yards. But Wednesday's wild celebrations were shortlived as Barnsley levelled in fortuitous circumstances four minutes later. Home defender Carl Dickinson played the ball back to Hallfredsson on the left edge of the visitors' penalty area and the Iceland international's whipped cross curled over stranded Owls goalkeeper Lee Grant into the far corner. Grant saved brilliantly when Daniel Bogdanovic bore down on goal in the 16th minute and from the subsequent corner Tykes skipper Stephen Foster's header bounced inches over the crossbar. But Wednesday regained the lead in spectacular fashion in the 21st minute. Johnson raced on to Marcus Tudgay's headed pass and lashed home a stunning angled volley, right-footed, from just inside the area. West Midlands referee Andy Penn waved away Barnsley claims for a penalty soon after when Hallfredsson went down in the box. Potter denied Barnsley a second equaliser as half-time approached when he cleared Foster's header from Hammill's corner off the goalline. Owls winger Johnson, full of confidence, twice threatened early in the second half, but the game was not as easy on the eye as it had been before the break. Both sides gave the ball away too frequently and whenever Barnsley fashioned anything like an opening, the Owls defended as if their lives depended on it. Tykes manager Robins sent on Iain Hume, Andy Gray and Jamal Campbell-Ryce for Hallfredsson, Jon Macken and Bogdanovic with 25 minutes remaining, but Wednesday were never going to surrender their lead meekly with the rare scent of victory in their nostrils.