A look at Saturday's 1-0 loss at Reading, a fourth straight defeat for the Reds.
OPPORTUNITY MISSED AS PERFORMANCE IS BETTER BUT RESULT THE SAME
Although the Reds are on rotten form and the Royals had won four out of five,
this was as good a chance to win at Reading as Barnsley could have realistically hoped for as the hosts were badly depleted and did not play well.
It could have been a vital away result at a club that looks likely to be docked points and shoot down the table soon.
Royals boss Veljko Paunovic surprisingly said post-match that playing Barnsley was 'one of the hardest games in the world’ due to the Reds’ running stats.
But Reading - who lost the ball regularly at the back while few of their attacking players had good games - would have probably lost playing like they did against nearly any other side in the division.
Barnsley had more passes, touches, possession and shots as they produced one of their best performances of a poor season so far but once again lacked finishing quality or the ability to see a game through.
All they offered after the 77th-minute goal was a couple of long-range shots that were very easily saved and they never really looked like equalising.
Most of the away fans seemed to appreciate the players’ effort and stayed to clap them off, but there had been a tense undercurrent such as the sarcastic ‘we've had a shot' chant after Barnsley’s first effort on target. It was an opportunity for points that the Reds, and Schopp, could not really afford to spurn.
HARSH TO SINGLE OUT HONDERMARCK
Romal Palmer, who has often struggled to complete 90 minutes regularly in his short Reds career, was taken off after 73 minutes for Will Hondermarck, who was back on the bench due to the injuries to Callum Styles and Josh Benson.
The hosts took the lead four minutes later, with Markus Schopp blaming a lack of organisation after Hondermarck’s introduction in midfield . He appeared to criticise both Hondermarck and Palmer when he said: “A couple of guys have to understand how important they are for us and, if they can't do it any more, we have to have a better bench.”
The goal had little to do with Hondermarck and the home side had already been getting on top before the substitution, after the Reds were the better team for the first hour.
It seemed odd to scapegoat a player making only his fourth Championship appearance after signing for the under 23s but it is not the first time Schopp has appeared to criticise his players which cannot be the recipe for a harmonious dressing room.
FINISHING AGAIN THE ISSUE WITH 2 GOALS IN SEVEN
A more realistic turning point was on the hour-mark when, having already come close twice in a fine start to the second half, Claudio Gomes won the ball deep in the Reading half and Barnsley suddenly had a four on three advantage with the home defence in chaos.
But, in a perfect illustration of their struggles to change style this season, they did not charge directly at goal as Valerien Ismael’s Reds would have but laboriously passed the ball out to the wing then saw Palmer have a shot blocked. That seemed to wake Reading up, and they immediately brought on impressive substitute Femi Azeez then started to get on top.
The goal came when John Swift brought down an excellent Scott Dann ball on the left touchline and was allowed to sprint into the Barnsley box before rounding Brad Collins and finishing.
That meant Swift had scored more goals this season than Barnsley, who suffered a fourth straight loss and were winless in ten with two goals in seven games since August.
Callum Brittain hit the post while Aaron Leya Iseka and Victor Adeboyejo both should have done better with close-range chances.
They have netted a penalty and a free-kick in seven games since August, both by Cauley Woodrow. Those are classic symptoms of a side lacking confidence, although they looked better on the attack in Reading.
INJURIES NO EXCUSE AS READING HAD MORE
Injuries to key players have badly hampered the Reds this season, with the list getting longer not shorter during the international as Callum Styles and Liam Kitching were added to it.
But that excuse was not appropriate in this game as Reading had ten players out injured.
Reading's 11 was a still lot more experienced than Barnsley's but their substitutes were Brazil international goalkeeper Rafael and six youth players with very little first team experience.
Reading are under a transfer embargo but seem to be still spending a lot on wages as they picked up Danny Drinkwater and Baba Rahman, who Chelsea had spent £60million on combined, as well as former Premier League regulars Dann and Junior Hoilett. Drinkwater and fellow ex-Red Andy Yiadom were two of the hosts’ better players.
They also had players left over from their big-spending days such as £7million striker George Puscas and £3.5million attacking midfielder Ovie Ejaria.
The Royals have reacted much better to an injury crisis, becoming one of the form teams in the division. That is partly since they have a bigger squad but it also suggests a greater belief and resilience than the Reds have shown so far.
BORO GAME MASSIVE
Barnsley now travel to Middlesbrough on Wednesday.
The match may have been dubbed by the more sensationalist media ‘El Sackico’ if Neil Warnock’s mid-table side had not netted an 85th-minute penalty to beat Peterborough, another team in the bottom three.
There may still be some tension at the Riverside Stadium which the Reds can exploit if they build on the performance at Reading but take their chances.
Another good display, despite a depleted squad, would be progress for Schopp but he needs to start collecting points immediately if he wants to turn around a skeptical fanbase and stop the Reds being cut adrift in the bottom three.