THE RED CARDS
Gerhard Struber had no complaints about the red cards dished out by referee Tim Robinson to his centre-backs Michal Helik and Mads Andersen, but clearly they changed a game that was heading in his side's favour.
The Sussex official has sent off two players in a Barnsley game before, dismissing Angus MacDonald and Sheffield United's Leon Clarke for violent conduct at Bramall Lane in 2017.
The Reds were well on top before the first red card, with Reading having no shots and barely an attack while they were pressed frantically by the visitors who looked by far the more lively, expansive and creative side. Barnsley even matched their hosts with ten men but, after the second sending off in between the two goals, there was no way back.
The first to go, on 42 minutes, was Helik who only made very minor contact with Lucas Joao, who tumbled to the ground, but that is all that is needed for a red card. It could be argued that Helik was not 'denying a goal-scoring opportunity' because Jack Walton was winning the race to the ball, but the Pole should have seen that and slowed down, thereby avoiding any contact with Joao, and allowing his goalkeeper to blast clear. Reading manager Veljko Paunović said: "We saw in our analysis that they leave players one on one at the back and we felt we could exploit that."
Despite lasting just 42 minutes, Helik still won most aerial challenges and most interceptions of any Barnsley player. The Reds had travelled to the Madejski Stadium hoping to net their first goal in three trips there since Dale Jennings' strike in a 3-1 2014 win. But the similarity with Jennings was that Helik joined him on the infamous list of players who have been sent off on their league debut for Barnsley, alongside the likes of Emmanuel Frimpong and Carl Regan.
The next man to go in Reading was Andersen, seconds after the opening goal midway through the second half. The hosts thought he should have been sent off in the first half for a foul on a Reading man who was breaking into Barnsley territory, but got their wish when he slid in to block a through ball but accidentally touched it with his hand. It stopped a Reading man going through on goal and was a deserved if unlucky yellow card.
DEFENDING FROM SET PIECES
Gerhard Struber repeatedly mentioned Barnsley conceding two set piece goals in his post-match press conference, while squirming in annoyance in his chair and making frustrated noises.
Although he put in a typically tenacious display in open play and his ten tackles were the most by far, it was a difficult day for Kilian Ludewig in his role at the near post when defending set pieces. The corner for the second goal was played low and straight to him but his clearance only made it to Michael Olise whose excellent shot arrowed into the bottom right corner. It was a wonderstrike from 25 yards but the ball should have been cleared to the halfway line by Ludewig.
The German also could have done better with the first goal, as he headed the right wing corner up into the air behind him and into a dangerous area at the back post. The other problem with the opener was that Conor Chaplin – who is good in the air but the shortest player on the pitch – was marking Reading's main goal threat Yakou Meite who is far taller.
Although it was an emergency situation in the absence of the sent-off Michal Helik, surely a taller defender should have been marking Meite who unsurprisingly beat Chaplin in the air to nod the ball down.Then, after Liam Moore's shot was blocked by Alex Mowatt and the ball span into the air, Meite headed in from almost on the goal line.
As for attacking set pieces, Barnsley were better as Marcel Ritzmaier – preferred to Callum Styles – found both Michael Sollbauer and Andersen at the back post from right wing corners but they could not find the target with headers from tight angles. Mowatt headed straight at the goalkeeper from another Ritzmaier corner late on.
LACK OF GOALS
"We created chances but we need strikers who can score goals. This is a big signal that we need new players. Everyone understands that and we work very close together to find the right players."
That was Gerhard Struber's damning assessment of his side's attacking prowess after they dominated the first half but failed to capitalise on several good situations.
Many fans may point to the fact that Cauley Woodrow – last season's top-scorer – was dropped to the bench and an unused substitute. His lack of involvement was at least partly due to the two red cards ruining the plan to send on attacking substitutes, but it seems bizarre that someone as proven and talented as him did not play. He has not scored in 12 Championship games but his record of 35 in 79 games in one of the best in Barnsley's recent history, despite often playing in attacking midfield rather than up front.
It is clear that the Reds could do with a targetman striker to provide something different to Woodrow, the starting pair in this game Conor Chaplin and Dominik Frieser, and Patrick Schmidt who came on at 0-0 but soon saw the goals go in and a second red card. But, should a big man be signed, then they will have enough firepower to compete in the Championship once their strikers find their finishing form and develop partnerships.
Struber started the two strikers yet to score this season and left the two who have on the bench in Woodrow and Schmidt. For all their dominance, the Reds' only real chance of the first half was a header by Frieser from a Ritzmaier cross which he did well to direct back across goal from the right of the box before seeing it brilliantly clawed out by the goalkeeper Rafael.
Frieser impressed but Chaplin, for all his good movement and willing running, did not look as threatening as when partnered with Woodrow previously.
The Reds are desperate to avoid the same slump after a 'great escape' that David Flitcroft's side endured in 2013 but that was the last time Barnsley failed to score in their first two games of a league season.
In Barnsley's most recent 13 Championship games, starting with their last game at Reading, they have scored just seven goals with no player netting more than once.
A BETTER PERFORMANCE OVERALL
There is no doubt the Reds were far better in this game, at least while they had 11 or ten players on the pitch, than a week earlier in their 1-0 home loss to Luton Town.
That is partly because they prefer playing against a team like the Royals who pass out from the back rather than the physical Hatters, but also because they collectively and individually looked more energetic and also clearer in the gameplan.
However, it could not get much worse than the Luton performance and, despite the better display at Reading, the Reds have no points and no goals despite their first two opponents not playing particularly well. It is far too early in the season for anything approaching panic but, having stumbled so far in what looked a kind opening to the fixture list, Barnsley will be desperate to get off the mark at home to Coventry City on Saturday.
CHELSEA UP NEXT
Wednesday's trip to Stamford Bridge is arguably the Reds' most glamorous cup tie since their 2013 FA Cup quarter-final at Manchester City, yet it is by far the least important fixture of the week as Championship points are what matter most.
Struber has been treating the cup as secondary although he will acknowledge that it is a fantastic opportunity for him and his players to take on one of the best clubs in England. The Reds are focused on developing players and this cup tie is surely an evening in which their young side can learn a lot.
With both Andersen and Helik suspended, along with Bambo Diaby for different reasons, Struber will almost certainly have to play a back three of Michael Sollbauer, Aapo Halme and Jordan Williams.
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