Poya Asbaghi has denied that Barnsley defended too deep after taking the lead against Reading, who levelled late on, but Callum Brittain admits the team ‘didn’t know what to do’ after scoring.

Carlton Morris scored in the fifth minute but that was the Reds’ only shot on target, with the visitors having more and more pressure then levelling in the 81st minute for a 1-1 draw.

Barnsley could have cut the gap to fourth-bottom Reading to two points but it remains at five with seven games left.

Asked if his side sat back too deep, Asbaghi told the Chronicle: “No. For the first 65 or 70 minutes we pressed them high. But then we got tired and it’s normal that you cannot press high all the time. I have not experienced in my life a team fighting in the bottom of the league and having the lead and not being pushed down here and there. It is about how you defend and we have not always been good at that. We were controlling them but then they scored. If we could see every game out, we would have the results of one of the top teams in the league recently.”

Brittain added: “Conceding late equalisers is a running theme. If something is consistently happening, there is a reason. We didn’t know what do do after going 1-0 up. We dropped intensity in our pressing and we were loose in the second half. We need to realise what situation we are in.

“The goal was devastating. It was a scrappy goal that bounced around in the box then a nice finish.

“But they controlled the second half. We were sloppy on the ball, weren’t reliable enough and they exploited that.

“It’s a little bit down in the dressing room, considering conceding late on. But we need to take the point and move on. It’s a stepping stone. It feels like a loss but it isn’t.”

Asked why he waited five minutes after the leveller to make any substitutes and why Aaron Leya Iseka did not come on, Asbaghi said: “I didn’t want to take Morris out, even if he is tired he is really important. Dom (Quina) has scored important goals for us, (Amine) Bassi has quality, Clarky (Clarke Oduor) already came on. We brought Victor (Adeboyejo) on for the fresh legs. We really wanted to win.”

Reading manager Paul Ince said: “Barnsley started to drop back, we smelt it and sensed it. We dominated the second half. There was only one team that was going to score.”

On the game in general and where it leaves his team, Asbaghi said: “If you look at any player, or me or the fans, it feels like a loss. Not only because we led but because we could have closed the gap and we didn’t. But the gap did not increase, we have had seven games left and we will not give up.

“We are not looking at the whole season. We are really disappointed today and we will be a little bit tomorrow but, by Monday, we will focus on the next game which we think we can win.

“If you look at the game, a draw is pretty logical. But it was not a game of fantastic combination football, it was two teams fighting to survive. With the pitch, it was about winning second balls. We got the lead, and honestly after that I felt we defended it in a good way. For me to be really happy we could have created more chances but Reading has a lot of offensive quality, that is their strength. When they are desperate, they take a lot of risks. We defended really really well in the second half and they didn’t have a chance until they scored.”

The goal saw John Swift cross from the left and Michael Morrison tap the ball back for Josh Laurent to net from close range.

Asbaghi said: “It was a combination of more than one thing. I cannot blame just one player. They moved Swift to the wing after he played centrally. We gave him too much space but also we should get more help from our midfielders to protect that space in our area.

“It was also due to tiredness. Maybe I should have subbed but I felt the players were doing well in those positions.”

On the situation in the league table, Asbaghi said: “We still have hope. It would have been really good to win. Now we cannot say we are close to having control in our hands. Now we are dependent on what Reading are doing which is not a nice feeling.

“But the last thing we can do is lose one or two percentages and then it turns out that Reading don’t do their job in the last rounds then we look at each other and say ‘what were we doing?’ We gave up too soon.’

“We have seven games left and we have been a team that can lose any game but also win or collect points against any opponent. None of the games are mission impossible to win.”

Michal Helik missed the match through injury. Asbaghi said: “It’s a tough injury for us. He has been maybe one of our best players recently. We have to assess him and wait until Monday for a good picture. If worst case maybe he is not playing any more this season, in best case he can still play some games. But I think they players in defence did a good job.”