JIM POPS UP TO MICKY’S RELIEF
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.”
FAST START: Jim O’Brien scores his early goal
CLOSE: Millwall’s DJ Campbell just misses