Danny Wilson enjoyed a winning return to Bramall Lane as his Barnsley side beat Sheffield United 1-0 this afternoon.
Sam Winnall, a summer signing from Scunthorpe, scored his fifth of the season early in the second-half to settle a hard-fough South Yorkshire derby.
United enjoyed plenty of territory and possession but, with Michael Higdon ruled-out through injury, failed to make either pay.
Barnsley punished them in ruthless fashion when Winnall headed home Conor Hourihane’s corner.
Marc McNulty and Stefan Scougall both enjoyed chances as Nigel Clough’s team searched in vain for an equaliser.
But Barnsley, who named new loan signing Marcelo Trotta on the bench, held on the condemn United to a rare home defeat.
Clough, speaking during his media briefing at the Redtooth Academy earlier this week, had expressed hopes that his predecessor would be granted a warm reception from the home crowd.
Wilson admitted he was “unsure” whether or not a support base he had quickly won round with his character and committment to attacking football after first being appointed three years ago.
One hundred and six matches and an ill-fated play-off final later, Wilson departed following a disappointing run of games towards the end of the 2012/13 campaign before returning for a second spell at Oakwell.
Clough’s plea did not fall on deaf ears but the former Northern Ireland international’s team was not afforded the same courtesy during the opening few seconds as Stefan Scougall powered through to earn a corner which Paddy McCarthy, seconds before Ross Turnbull was adjudged to have been fouled, nodded over.
United, who had entered this match searching for a fifth consecutive win in all competitions and placed sixth in the table, continued to test Barnsley’s resolve.
Jamie Murphy drove forward at every opportunity and created the opportunity which saw Scougall’s step over present Jose Baxter with a sight of goal just inside the six yard box.
Lewin Nyatanga and Peter Ramage, however, combined to limit the former Everton youngster’s space and the ball was eventually hacked clear.
In the ninth minute, only Ross Turnbull’s reactions prevented United from taking the lead.
Murphy won a free-kick deep inside Barnsley territory as he powered towards The Kop and, when Baxter’s delivery made its way towards the far post, Craig Alcock timed his climb perfectly to meet the ball.
Turnbull, though, got the slightest of touches to stop it from reaching the back of the net before clearing at the second attempt.
Barnsley made the short journey south having won two of their previous six outings.
However, a battling draw against Bristol City last weekend suggested Wilson’s charges are beginning to slip into gear.
They demonstrated plenty of character and resolve to keep United at bay until the break.
Indeed, although Wilson’s players spent long periods on the back foot, they were menacing on the counter-attack.
A fact Joe Dudgeon underlined when he wrong-footed Jamal Campbell-Ryce by the corner flag after a quarter of an hour before finding Winnall at the near post. Stretching, he could only tip a first time effort over Mark Howard’s bar but it represented a warning for United.
At the other end, Baxter sent James Wallace bearing down on Turnbull but his shot was deflected by Dudgeon into the arms of a grateful turnbul before another piece of quick thinking by the United forward, this time to release Murphy from a set-piece, saw the Barnsley goalkeeper smother.
Winnall forced McCarthy to fling himself at a low shot midway through the half after Campbell-Ryce had tested Turnbull’s handling with an angled attempt.
Barnsley, though, established a foothold in the contest as the contest progressed.
Luke Berry fired straight at Mark Howard from 25 yards after electing neither Devante Cole nor the lively Winnall were viable options.
But their increasing confidence nearly handed United a chance to take charge of the match when, four minutes before the interval, Campbell-Ryce ran into space before sliding a pass to Baxter out in space on the flank.
His outswinging centre evaded Turnbull but, just as Michael Doyle prepared to touch home at the far post, a Barnsley defender intervened.
The second-half began in the same fashion as the first with United trying to seize the intiative and Barnsley, with runners swarming forward, working on the counter-attack. A stray pass from the otherwise impressive Alcock allowed Cole to edge Wilson’s team fully 40 yards upfield but the on-loan striker failed to exploit the space which came his way.
Barnsley’s retention of possession and positional sense now seemed much more solid.
United, by contrast, looked far less assured and paid the ultimate price when some slack play saw Howard parry Cole’s 56th minute shot behind for a corner.
Conor Hourihane deposited the ball in the middle of the penalty area and WINNALL headed home to spark ecstatic celebrations among the 2961 strong away support.
United made an immediate change with Wallace making way and McNulty entering the fray.
Murphy tried to force the issue but sprayed a shot from outside the box high and wide.
Baxter wriggled into a passing position on the byline but his cross, which rolled tantalisingly across the six yard box, evaded Scougall.
Dudgeon, who like Alcock had done well, was cautioned for a 69th minute foul on Campbell-Ryce.
United should have equalised from the resulting set-piece, which was taken by Baxter, but McNulty, despite finding himself in acres of space, headed tamely over the bar.
Turnbull joined Dudgeon in referee Scott Mathieson’s notebook when he was cautioned for timewasting during the closing stages.
United introduced Ryan Flynn with nine minutes of normal time remaining.
Campbell-Ryce, whose influence had diminished after an encouraging start, was withdrawn and the substitute nearly made an immediate impact when Scougall met his cross. Turnbull, however, was alert to the danger and bravely saved at the former Livingston midfielder’s feet.
United made their third and final change in the 86th minute when Chris Porter replaced Baxter.
Barnsley followed suit, albeit with their first switch, as Winnall was withdrawn and Kane Hemmings entered the fray.
Flynn drilled straight at Turnbull as Barnsley retreated while James Bree replaced Cole in the first of four added minutes.SHEFFIELD UNITED: Howard, Alcock, Harris, Wallace, Doyle, Murphy, Scougall, Baxter, McEveley, Campbell-Ryce, McCarthy. Substitutes: Basham, Flynn, McNulty, McGahey, Porter, Reed, Turner.
BARNSLEY: Turnbull, Dudgeon, Berry, Nyatanga, Cranie, Hourihane, Winnall, Williams, Ramage, Bailey, Cole. Substitutes: Treacy, Hemmings, Davies, M’voto, Bree, Trotta, Lita.
REFEREE: Scott Mathieson (Cheshire).