WATFORD GOT back to winning ways with an early goal from skipper John Eustace which re-invigorated any lingering play-off hopes to move Watford within five points of sixth with three games to go.
Eustace bundled in the only goal of the game inside a minute after Troy Deeney had cruelly been denied when he saw his strong head palmed onto the underside of the bar.
With no Ross Jenkins or Matty Whichelow, Piero Mingoia was handed his full league debut in midfield with Deeney and Cowie on the flanks. Marvin Sordell partnered Danny Graham up top.
The Hornet`s started brightly forcing a string of corners from which they capitalised after just 43 seconds when Eustace bundled home from close-range.
Despite dominating the first five minutes it was Barnsley who took the initiative after the goal and the Tykes were soon camped in Watford`s half without ever really asserting themselves on Malky Mackay`s men.
A flashed cross from Danny Haynes and Marlon Harewood`s angled volley were all Mark Robin`s men had to show for their first-half territory.
The second half started more evenly though the visitors eventually showed some impetus when sub Rueben Noble-Lazarus came on for Harewood.
Noble-Lazarus forced a good strong block from Loach with a wicked left-footed effort after Loach had already thrown himself to the ground in order to block a powerful header.
There was one hairy moment for the impressive Loach though when he failed to properly grasp a loose ball however he clung-on at the second attempt to deny the Barnsley forward.
Sub Bobby Hassell wasted a good chance when he half-volleyed comfortably over from the edge of the Hornet`s area.
Cowie could`ve settled the game for the ‘Orns when he was intelligently played in one-on-one with Tykes stopper Luke Steele but the Scottish winger was unable to outpace Jason Shackell and the move broke down 20 yards from goal.
A gritty, determined 90-minute display from the Hornets which gives them an outside, outside chance of sneaking into sixth at the death. At times this season Mackay`s men would`ve capitulated under pressure and doubtless gone on to lose the game having held a lead for 89 minutes but this was a professional display, albeit aided by a blunt Barnsley.
Watford: Loach; Hodson, Mariappa, Taylor, Doyley; Deeney, Mingoia (Drinkwater), Eustace (c), Cowie; Sordell (Weimann) and Graham.
Subs not used: Gilmartin (GK); Buckley, Bennett, Thompson and Massey.
Barnsley: Steele; Trippier, Foster, Shackell (c), Hill; Doyle, Mellis (Hassell), Butterfield, Haynes; Harewood (Noble-Lazarus) and Gray (Clark).
Subs not used: Preece (GK); McEveley, O`Brien and Arismendi.
Referee: Mr D McDermid
Attendance: 14 098