Wolverhampton Wanderers’ right-back Kevin Foley gave his manager and the gold-and-black faithful an early cup of Christmas cheer as he helped his side widen the gap between themselves and the chasing pack at the top of the Coca-Cola Championship with a vital win.

McCarthy might have been born and bred in the Yorkshire town and played 300 games for them in the 1970s and 80s but that was where his allegiance ends as he willed his side to take all three points over Simon Davey’s well-organised triers.

In the end, McCarthy was the happiest as Foley not only helped force an own-goal from Barnsley defender Bobby Hassell but struck a sweet late strike of his own in the 88th minute to ensure Wolves took all the spoils.

They now sit pretty, six points ahead of their closest rivals Birmingham as the teams prepare for the busy seasonal schedule.

Wolves have played – and will play – much better than this but at the final whistle McCarthy was delighted his side had managed to grind out a result against a team who pass and move the ball well.

The Wolves boss said: “I am from Barnsley and very proud of that. If I go back to Barnsley, I get treated very well but if I go back with my team everyone wants to kick their and my backsides!

“But it was a tough game. I thought early on in the season, when we had some really wonderful performances, that games wouldn’t be like that every week. There are all sorts of games and this was one of them. We had to win this against a side who played some good football.”

Barnsley might have got something through Jamie Cureton but clearly lacked a clinical finisher while Wolves also looked to be missing giant Scotland International striker Chris Iwelumo who is still nursing an ankle injury.

Andy Keogh stepped into the breach but found his chances few and far between while Sylvan Ebanks-Blake looked lost without his towering team-mate. In the end, Foley was the real difference creating all sorts of problems.