Analysis from Barnsley's 3-1 EFL Cup loss at Premier League Leeds United on Wednesday.
REDS SHOW CHARACTER AGAINST TOP FLIGHT HOSTS
This was, despite being a local derby against hated opponents, arguably the least important fixture in a run of tough league games which will be far more vital for the season as a whole.
The fact that Barnsley held their own, for the most part, against such opposition is a big positive, and they can take some confidence into the next games.
Following the capitulation against Wycombe four days earlier, they showed far more resilience and a better mentality.
But they must replicate that week in, week out at less glamorous venues than Premier League Elland Road in front of 35,000 noisy fans.
The nearly 3,000 from Barnsley saw a committed performance, streaked with moments of quality.
The Reds fought back from 2-0 down and were a penalty miss away from levelling against a side who, in theory, should have blown them away.
While they made nine changes from their 3-0 win over Chelsea on Sunday, Leeds still started Diego Llorente and Luis Sinisterra who had been signed for £40million combined and are full internationals for Spain and Colombia.
Sinisterra was the best player on the pitch, opening the scoring and creating the other goals.
Leeds packed their bench with about £150milllion of talent, including signings from Bayern Munich and Valencia, and could bring on two £27million men in Rodrigo and Dan James in the second half.
MISS CRUCIAL ON NIGHT OF PENALTY DRAMA
Callum Styles was given a golden chance to draw Barnsley level just before the break. But his disputed spot-kick, which he had won after a clumsy Adam Forshaw tackle, struck the base of the right post
Michael Duff confirmed later that, despite there being strikers on the pitch, Styles was the designated penalty-taker after impressing from the spot in training. He had ‘been putting every one in the top corner’ in practice but, in the Elland Road atmosphere, went low and off-target.
Styles was harshly denied a second penalty at 2-1 when he appeared to be brought down in the box by £11million German international Robin Koch.
Leeds were also given a penalty, with Conor McCarthy tripping Sinisterra for the 2-0 goal.
IF STYLES LEAVES, THIS IS A SAD END
Styles, who has been linked with a move away in the summer transfer window which closes next Thursday, had the chance to boost his confidence and profile but instead continued a frustrating campaign in which he has been shunted from left wing-back to central midfield, generally looking well off his best.
Despite international caps for Hungary, the last 15 months have been extremely difficult as he struggled for form and suffered a humiliating relegation.
It must be a confusing time for a 22-year-old with a potentially life-changing move in the balance, but his behaviour around the training ground has been, by all accounts, impeccable.
His work-rate is not an issue – he made more tackles than any Barnsley player in this match.
But, if this is to be one of his final games as a Barnsley player, it is quite a sad ending for one of the club’s best young talents for years.
As well as the penalty miss, he was booked for a wild tackle seconds later and beaten easily for the first and third goals.
ANDERSEN EXCELS BUT TOUGH NIGHT FOR MCCARTHY
One player also monitored by other clubs who has enjoyed a far better start to the season is Mads Andersen.
Barnsley’s captain was excellent and did not look out of place competing with Premier League attackers. He also scored a superb header from a set piece, after Duff had been frustrated that the Reds had not netted from a dead ball routine despite a lot of work on the training ground.
Liam Kitching, back at the club where he came through the academy, also put in a creditable display – defending well and setting up Styles to win the penalty. He made the most touches and clearances and won the most headers, while he was at the centre of a second half flare-up when he appeared to push Cody Drameh and spark a melee which saw both of them booked as well as Leo Hjelde who charged in. He was booed by the home fans but will take that as a badge of honour.
It was a tough night for the other centre-back Conor McCarthy who unsurprisingly struggled against the excellent Sinisterra but also lost the ball badly a couple of times in his half including for the 3-1 goal. He is likely to be replaced by Robbie Cundy at Ipswich on Saturday.
Wing-backs Jordan Helliwell and Clarke Oduor may not be in the squad at the weekend but put in a good effort on a big night for both.
Helliwell, from Wakefield, has never experienced an atmosphere like that in his handful of appearances, while Oduor was back at the club where he spent a decade in the academy. They did not get forward much but defended well for back-up League One wing-backs against high-quality opponents.
TEDIC IMPRESSES ON DEBUT
Debutant Slobodan Tedic came off the bench and added a physical presence that had been badly lacking all season by winning some headers.
The Manchester City loanee also showed glimpses of a player who can hold the ball up and produce decent passes and touches.
Tedic could have made it a nervy finale in the 89th minute but headed Luca Connell’s left-wing cross wide from eight yards out.
It was a poor miss but he certainly showed some promise and deserves an opportunity at Ipswich.
He replaced James Norwood who touched the ball only six times in the first half and completed just four passes in 63 minutes.
Devante Cole was much more involved, showing great strength and powerful running to win the free-kick for Barnsley’s goal then bursting past two players in the second half before finding Styles for the second penalty claim.
Josh Benson was Barnsley’s best attacking player – surging forward with some fine runs and putting in impressive free-kicks including an assist, but he could have marked better for Leeds’ third.