OLDHAM ATHLETIC 1, BARNSLEY 3
Lee Johnson made a triumphant return to SportsDirect.com Park as Barnsley made it six straight wins to suddenly make themselves dark horses for promotion from Sky Bet League One.
What a contrast for Latics who have seen their hopes of going up almost certainly disappear after five defeats in six games.
It is a role reversal because when Johnson went to Barnsley last month they were below Latics in the league table as they looked to have a relegation scrap on their hands.
Suddenly Latics are having to look nervously over their shoulders as they probably still need two more wins to make absolutely certain of staying up.
It has certainly been a baptism of fire for caretaker manager Dean Holden who has lost three of his four games in charge and whose side has been decimated through injury and suspension.
Their case against Barnsley was not helped by the absence of Liam Kelly, James Wilson and Dominic Poleon, all hurt in the build up to the game, as they joined Brian Wilson, George Elokobi, Joseph Mills, Jacob Mellis and Amari Morgan-Smith on the sidelined.
It was no wonder Latics toiled and were second best as Barnsley continued their rich vein of form with their latest victory secured through two goals from Lewin Nyatanga and one from Conor Hourihane while all Holden’s side had to show for its efforts was a lone strike from Mike Jones.
And Latics’ woes continued as they finished with 10 men as Adam Lockwood was sent off for collecting two bookings.
Latics handed debuts to new loan signings Mat Sadler at left back and Luke Woodland in midfield.
The game sparked to life just after the half hour when Barnsley took the lead when Hourihane’s free kick was parried by goalkeeper Jake Kean into the path of Nyatanga who scored from close range.
Barnsley had a chance to double their advantage two minutes later when Hourihane’s free kick whistled just wide of the upright.
The visitors scored their second goal six minutes before half time in a fortuitous manner as Carl Winchester’s clearance was blocked by Hourihane and rebounded past Kean.
Latics needed a pick-me-up and got that before half time when Conor Wilkisnon set up Jones who halved the deficit with a cool finish.
And the momentum was with Latics early in the second half as Wilkinson had two decent chances to make it 2-2 as one effort was well saved and another defected by Nyatanga for a corner.
Barnsley regained their two-goal advantage with 20 minutes left when Nyatanga scrambled home his second goal of the game to the delight of almost 2,500 visiting fans.
Late in the game, Latics had chances to reduce the deficit as substitute Rhys Murphy, Wilkinson and Jonathan Forte had decent chances.
And Wilkinson went close again as Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies made a super save to deny Latics a second goal.
Latics’ day finished on a sour note when Locked was sent off after collecting a second caution as little is going their way at the moment in this challenging period in the club’s history.