The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Si­mon Smed­ley To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­mad.net/

JIM O’Brien’s preda­tory early strike proved enough to sep­a­rate fel­low strug­glers Barns­ley and Mill­wall, with Tykes as­sis­tant man­ager Micky Mel­lon ad­mit­ting to breath­ing a huge sigh of re­lief come the fi­nal whis­tle.

In the end the Tykes hung on for a po­ten­tially price­less three points, which lifted them to within just two points of their vis­i­tors as the Cham­pi­onship base­ment bat­tle continues.

The win wasn’t enough to lift Barns­ley out of the drop zone, but re­lief was writ­ten all over the face of Mel­lon as he stood in for the pizza-chomp­ing Danny Wil­son af­ter the game.

Mel­lon said: “That was a very valu­able three points for us, par­tic­u­larly given that other teams around us also won.

“Hav­ing said that, it’s got to be about us dur­ing these fi­nal games of the sea­son.

“We must keep fo­cus­ing on our game and no­body else’s.

“I’d be ly­ing if I said that I'm not re­lieved af­ter we man­aged to hang on at the end. There were points in that sec­ond half when I was won­der­ing if we were go­ing to get the vic­tory.

“But credit to the lads.We knew we’d have to de­fend well and we’ve done just that.

“It was cru­cial that we needed to de­fend the edge of our box well.

“A clean­sheet is big for us too. At his stage of the sea­son a 1-0 vic­tory can do won­ders for con­fi­dence and hope­fully this can kick us off on a lit­tle run now.We need it.”

It was a pretty even first half at sun-drenched Oak­well, though the Tykes went in at the break with the lead thanks to O'Brien’s fourth-minute strike.

O’Brien latched on to skip­per Martin Cranie’s long yet ac­cu­rate through ball, skipped past Danny Shittu, then coolly slot­ted past Lions goal­keeper keeper David Forde to notch his third goal of the sea­son.

Leading scorer Chris O’Grady ought to have dou­bled the lead, but he scooped Dale Jen­nings’ cross woe­fully over the top from 13 yards.

The Lions best chance of a lev- eller came when Steve Mori­son’s glanc­ing header was su­perbly palmed away by div­ing goal­keeper Luke Steele in the Barns­ley goal.

Both sides were guilty of miss­ing pre­sentable chances dur­ing an end-to-end sec­ond half.

Tykes sub Stephen Daw­son twice blazed over when well placed, while Steele pro­duced two bril­liant stops to keep the Lions at bay.

Shaun Wil­liams saw a free-kick well beaten away, then DJ Camp­bell turned away in dis­be­lief as his close-range vol­ley was some­how stopped by the ag­ile Steele.

Wil­liams then fizzed a shot inches wide, leav­ing Lions boss Ian Hol­loway to re­flect on an­other mis­er­able af­ter­noon as his side have now won just once in their last 14 league and cup fix­tures.

The Lions boss moaned: “I have to take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for re­sults like this. We need clean­sheets.

“How dif­fi­cult is it to keep a clean­sheet? This is a dis­ap­point­ing re­sult with­out a doubt.

“We've got 14 games left now and things have to get bet­ter.

“I think we stayed up by a sin­gle point last sea­son, and do I want that to hap­pen again this year? No.

“You won’t catch me blam­ing any­one other than my­self, though.

“The buck stops with me. We just have to show more char­ac­ter, and I know it’s in there.

“Things will get a lot harder, but again, I will al­ways stick by my play­ers.

“I came out of early re­tire­ment to keep this club in the Cham­pi­onship, and I’m de­ter­mined to do that, whether it’s with a de­jected spirit now or not – we must push on.”

PIC­TURES: Keith Turner

FAST START: Jim O’Brien scores his early goal

CLOSE: Mill­wall’s DJ Camp­bell just misses

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