Neill Collins was surprised by his Barnsley side’s performance on a ‘bizarre evening’ but praised their character to come from behind and beat lowly Carlisle United 2-1.

The Reds were poor early on and fell behind but Devante Cole levelled then Herbie Kane netted a late penalty. After gifting their visitors four big early chances, one of which they took, the hosts produced a disappointing performance but ground out the win.

Head coach Collins told the Chronicle: “I didn’t expect that level of performance. I don’t know the exact reasons for it other than too many players having an off night all at once.

“It was clear there were a lot of basic individual errors out there. We got punished for it and could have been punished more. But we dug in, got to half-time then, in the second half, there were still some errors but they weren’t as bad. We scored a fantastic goal then went on to win it.

“We will learn, not many of those players have played like that before.

“We definitely got away with only being 1-0 down early on. We never controlled the game, it was just a fight and battle. The players showed a lot of character. It could have ended up in a complete disaster but they kept going and got there in the end.”

Collins warned pre-match against subconscious complacency against the second-bottom Cumbrians. Was there some of that in his side’s display?

“When you look at the performance, you have to say there was something not quite right. It was a freezing cold night against a team who showed real hunger. Maybe we had too many who weren’t quite focused. I don’t think generally we show inexperience as at team, even though we are very young, but we did at times in this game.”

Captain Jordan Williams added: “It was a bizarre evening for us all but we came out of it with three points. Sometimes we might not play the best but the main thing is to win.

“I don’t really know what happened at the start. Throughout the season you will have a game like that. To win shows our character and belief. We have come from behind a few times now.”

Kane netted from the spot on 86 minutes after Adam Phillips was judged to have been fouled by Jordan Gibson. Collins said: “Based on the kind of night it was, you’re thinking ‘we will miss this and it will sum up the evening.’ But credit to Herbie. He showed excellent composure. For both goals there was a lot of quality.”

Barnsley are now unbeaten in ten league games, up one place to fifth and within three points of the automatic promotion places. Collins said: “We feel a couple of those draws could have been wins and we want to stop conceding silly goals.

“There are far more positives. It’s a very tight league and we’re right up there competing.”

Luca Connell was taken off at half-time after returning from injury. Collins said: “We could have taken a lot of people off. Luca was desperate to play, passed a fitness test and is a key player but I didn’t think he was quite right. I just felt it was the right decision. We just need to get him physically right then we’ll see the best of him.”

Teenage striker Fabio Jalo was not included in the squad and is expected to play tomorrow in the FA Youth Cup at Coventry City.

Collins said: “I can only pick 18 players. Fabio has done really, really well in training and games. I just felt we needed a couple of different options. It could easily have been him but, with the 18s game, that was a small part of it. But Fabio will have a key part to play for us this season.”