What a strange old season this has been for Barnsley.
Being written off as almost dead and buried when they lost a record-busting eight Sky Bet League One spanning October and November, the doom and gloom around Oakwell at that time left boss Lee Johnson hanging to his job by the skin of his teeth.
However, the Barnsley board bravely stuck by their man and allowed him funds to strengthen the squad, and look at them go now.
On Saturday rampant Barnsley murdered former boss Keith Hill’s Rochdale side, with Sam Winnall helping himself to a magical first league hat-trick as his side bagged a fourth straight win and a fifth in six games.
It’s still too early to talk about any potential surge towards the play-off positions - that really would be an incredible achievement - but Johnson did say: “I’m just feeling pure elation at the moment.
“I’m delighted for the lads because this was a great win for them. Sam got a hat-trick and everyone is in form.
“I’m delighted for the fans too, because it’s always nice to be putting on a good show at home. This was a tough game up to a certain point, but once we’d scored the third goal we went on to produce a rout.
“It was great to give our fans something to go home and really buzz about over the next few days.
“The sweetness for me is just getting the three points of course, but to be honest I felt this kind of result was coming.
“We took our chances in this game, and all across the park we looked reasonably solid.”
Johnson had been forced intoa change to his starting line-up following the previous weekend’s brilliant away victory at Shrewsbury.
Aidy White had picked up a niggling injury in training, meaning a recall for George Williams at left-backfor his first Reds appearance since the season opening-day defeat at Chesterfield.
Williams had enjoyed a loan spell at National League side Barrow in the meantime.
Among the substitutes was the welcome sight of wide-man Josh Scowen, who finally returned to contention after spending almost three months out injured. He received a great ovation when replacing Josh Brownhill with 12 minutes remaining.
Returning Rochdale boss Hill made one alteration with Jamie Allen being replaced in the midfield by Callum Camps. Former Reds Jim Mculty and Reuben Noble-Lazarus were in the visitors’ 18.
It was a great first period at Oakwell, with the Reds largely dominating and going in at the break with a one goal lead.
That came after eight minutes, with Alfie Mawson neatly glancing home a header from Adam Hammill’s in-swinging free-kick as the centre-back registered his sixth goal of the campaign.
Hammill cracked a superb half-volley from almost 30 yards inches over the top.
The visitors’ Campswas denied by a smart goal-line clearance from Williams, but Barnsley were rapidly back on the offensive.
Lloyd Isgrove teed up Marley Watkins, who drilled narrowly wide. Winnall came close to finishing off a glorious multi-player move when he side-footed a shot at Dale ‘keeper Josh Lillis.
It was a totally different story in the second period as the devastating Reds cut loose.
Winnall’s first goal made it 2-0 eight minutes after the restart as the ex-Scunthorpe man side-footed home Hammill’s pinpoint cross.
There was brief hope for Hill and Dale when sub Nathanial Mendez-Laing nodded home Michael Rose’s cross, but after that the hosts were rampant.
Winnall made it 3-1 in the 69th minute, tapping home sub Ashley Fletcher’s cross, before Marley Watkins made it four as he smashed home clinically as he latched on to a cute through-ball from his strike partner. Two further goals either side of the 90-minute mark wrapped up a dream win for the Reds.
Winnall made it five with his third of the day - heading home after a knock-down from Fletcher - while the sixth came when Kevin Long nodded home a Hourihane cross.
What a dream day at Oakwell this had been.
Hammill limped off with a knee injury and Johnson is still unsure whether he will be fit enough to make the trip Bradford City tomorrow night.
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies 7; Bree 8 (Roberts 82, 7), Long 8, Mawson 8, G Williams 8; Isgrove 7 (Fletcher 68, 8), Hourihane 7, Brownhill 7 (Scowen 78, 7), Hammill 9; Winnall 9, Watkins 8. Subs not used: Townsend, R Williams, H White, Templeton.
Goals: Mawson 8, Winnall 52, 68, 89, Watkins 84, Long 90+2
ROCHDALE (4-1-4-1): Lillis 5; Cannon 7 (Mendez-Laing 59, 6), Lancashire 4, McNulty 5, Rose 5; Camps 6; Lund 7, McDermott 5 (Allen 59, 5), Vincenti 4, Henderson 5; Andrew 5 (Bunney 59, 5). Subs not used: Diba-Musangu, Rafferty, Bennett, Noble-Lazarus.
Goal: Mendez-Laing 65
BOOKED: McNulty (89).
REF: Nigel Miller (County Durham).