Barnsley’s 11-game unbeaten run came to an end with a 2-1 loss to relegation-battling Exeter City.

The Reds trailed 2-0 at half-time following a very poor first half display then were much better after the break but missed several good chances.

Mael de Givegney pulled one back late on but the Reds were beaten in the league for the first time since Derby County away on November 11.

They remain fifth in League One, five points off the top two and three clear in the top six.

Barnsley’s usual midfield three were all doubts going into the game. Herbie Kane missed out but Adam Phillips started and Luca Connell was on the bench.

Max Watters – on his first league start since November – came in for Kane with John McAtee dropping back into midfield. Aiden Marsh was on bench.

Liam Roberts made a good save in the fifth minute, turning a 30-yard Reece Cole free-kick out of his bottom right corner.

Roberts then tipped over a looping 15-yard header by Vincent Harper after a long throw was played easily into the Reds box to Ilmari Niskanen who stood up a cross from the right byline.

The visitors eventually scored in the 17th minute when, after Jack Shepherd sliced a clearance into the air, Jon Russell touched it straight to former Barnsley man Jack Aitchison brought it down and finished well from the right of the box at close-range. There were some appeals for handball but the defending was terrible.

The second goal saw more sluggish defending as Exeter passed around the home box before Cole skipped past McAtee and curled in an excellent 20-yard shot.

Harper almost added a third as he burst through the home defence into the left of the box but his powerful shot from a tight angle was kept out by Roberts at his near post.

Sonny Cox was then put clean through by a clever backheel and his shot touched by Roberts onto the post.

Barnsley had their first shot on 45 minutes when Devante Cole headed over after Watters nodded a McAtee cross back across goal.

Neill Collins brought on Sam Cosgrove and Barry Cotter for Watters and Corey O’Keeffe at half-time.

Barnsley were better early in the second half, with the substitutes making an impact. Cosgrove headed a long ball to McAtee who had the hosts’ first shot on target with a 15-yard effort that lacked power and was easily saved.

But Cox missed another massive chance at the other end, heading wide when totally unmarked from a left-wing cross.

A defensive error put Cole through on the hour mark but his shot from the right of the box was saved by the legs of Viljami Sinisalo.

Minutes later, Adam Phillips’ excellent 20-yard shot crashed against the crossbar then Cadden immediately crossed for Cosgrove to turn wide from close range.

Cosgrove’s clever touch then allowed McAtee to advance to the edge of the box where his low shot was pushed away by the goalkeeper.

Connell came on for Russell after 70 minutes and made and instant impact as fine passes by him then Phillips put McAtee through to net but the flag was up for offside.

Connell’s 25-yard swerving effort was punched away after he won the ball near halfway and surged forward. Cole then headed wide from a Phillips cross.

Cosgrove then blasted over from eight yards out after a scramble in the box.

Barnsley pulled one back when Mael de Gevigney nodded into the bottom left corner from close range on 88 minutes after Shepherd headed Nicky Cadden’s cross.

Connell’s deflected shot went narrowly wide of the bottom right corner from just outside the box deep in injury-time.

Barnsley (3–4-1-2): Roberts; Williams, de Gevigney, Shepherd; O’Keeffe (Cotter HT), Phillips, Russell (Connell 70 mins), McAtee, Cadden; Watters (Cosgrove HT), Cole.

Unused: Killip, Lopata, Marsh, Atkinson.

Yellow cards: Cotter, Cosgrove.

Goals: De Gevigney 88.

Exeter (3-4-1-2): Sinisalo; Sweeney, Diabate, Jules; Niskanen, Carroll (Taylor 81mins), Cole (Kite 81), Harper (Hartridge 64 mins); Aitchison; Rankine (Watts 81); Cox (Wildschut 70).

Unused: MacDonald, Fitzwater.

Yellow cards: Hartridge, Watts.

Goals: Aitchison 17, Cole 31.

  • 3:03pm
    Looks like John McAtee is playing as a number ten behind the strikers
  • 3:05pm
    Exeter win a free-kick 25 yards out after foul by Williams
  • 3:06pm
    5 A 30-yard free-kick by Reece Cole is turned around the bottom left corner by Roberts. Good effort, good save. Barnsley clear the corner.
  • 3:08pm
    Barnsley have not quite got going yet. Exeter having most of the ball so far
  • 3:10pm
    Exeter close again. A long. throw by Sweeney to Imari Niskanen whose hooked cross on right of box is headed by Vincent Harper and Roberts tips over. Short corner leads to cross which Roberts catches at near post
  • 3:12pm
    So two saves by Roberts already. Barnsley sluggish so far
  • 3:15pm
    Slightly better from Barnsley in the last few minutes. They seem organised in their press and are passing it around quite nicely. Yet to create a chance though
  • 3:18pm
    GOAL: Jack Aitchison opens the scoring at his former club
  • 3:20pm
    Lofted ball into the box not dealt with and Aitchison brings it down then. finishes from a tight angle on the right. Probably a deserved lead. Another comeback required from the Reds who have not got going yet
  • 3:26pm
    Jack Shepherd and Jon Russell both want to see that goal again. A sliced clearance then a touch straight to Aitchison respectively. Very poor goal. All Exeter at the moment 0-1
  • 3:26pm
    Exeter play another corner short and eventually it is cleared
  • 3:29pm
    A really poor performance so far by the Reds. Not quite Carlisle levels but Exeter well on top and the hosts have created nothing
  • 3:31pm
    Reece Cole with a superb goal from 20 yards
  • 3:36pm
    It's a brilliant finish, tricking his way into position to shoot in from outside the box. But Barnsley were – as they have been all game – so flat-footed and sluggish closing Exeter down and tracking their slick passing.
  • 3:36pm
    Barnsley have been seriously bad so far
  • 3:37pm
    The Reds just look so flat and disjointed, with lots of errors at the back
  • 3:40pm
    Almost 3-0. Vincent Harper speeds through the home defence on the left of the box then his shot is kept out at his near post by Roberts
  • 3:43pm
    Another big save by Roberts. A clever back heel puts Sonny Cox clean through and his shot is touched by Roberts onto the post.
  • 3:46pm
    Barnsley finally. have a shot on 45 minutes. Cole heads over after Watters nods McAtee's cross back across goal
  • 3:48pm
    HALF-TIME: Barnsley 0, Exeter 2
  • 4:06pm
  • 4:06pm
    Cosgrove and Cotter for O'Keeffe and Watters.
  • 4:08pm
    Cotter wins ball high up pitch. McAtee crosses from right and Cosgrove inches from heading at close range but just misses it
  • 4:09pm
    Now a Cadden cross beaten away at the near post after Cosgrove run and pass
  • 4:09pm
    Poor corner. by McAtee cleared at near post
  • 4:10pm
    Cotter long throw cleared
  • 4:11pm
    Barnsley have their first shot on target. Cosgrove heads down a long ball to McAtee whose shot lacks power from 15 yards and is saved. So much better though from the Reds
  • 4:12pm
    Cotter has to head behind for Exeter corner after attack on right wing
  • 4:12pm
    Exeter corner on left headed behind by Williams for another
  • 4:13pm
    Roberts punches out the corner then Ilmari Niskanen's shot is deflected wide.
  • 4:14pm
    Big chance for. 3-0. After a short corner, a cross from the left is headed wide by Cox who was totally unmarked.
  • 4:17pm
    Cotter superbly beats a man but cross cleared
  • 4:18pm
    Barry Cotter booked for bringing down Harper about 30 yards from goal
  • 4:20pm
    Another chance for the Reds. Cole goes through on the right of the box but the angle is fairly tight and the shot saved by the legs of Viljami Sinisalo
  • 4:22pm
    So close again. Phillips crashes against the bar then Cosgrove turns wide from Cadden cross when he should score.
  • 4:24pm
    Exeter bring on Alex Hartridge for Vincent Harper
  • 4:26pm
    Much better from Barnsley this half. But they may rue not taking any of those chances
  • 4:27pm
    The goalkeeper slices behind for a corner
  • 4:27pm
    Barnsley fans in decent voice. But the corner. goes over everyone and out for a throw
  • 4:28pm
    Another chance. Cosgrove's nice touch to McAtee who runs to edge of box but low shot pushed away by keeper
  • 4:30pm
    Connell for Russell. Big cheers
  • 4:30pm
    Yanic Wildschut on for Cox for Exeter
  • 4:35pm
    Barnsley have had more than enough chances to be level now, at least
  • 4:36pm
    Cadden corner on the right. Touched wide by the goalkeeper for a corner o n the other side
  • 4:37pm
    This time the. corner. by Cadden is easily caught
  • 4:38pm
    Connell wins ball on halfway, powers forward and shoots from 25 yards but goalkeeper punches clear.
  • 4:39pm
    Now Cole heads over from a Phillips cross
  • 4:40pm
    Triple change for the visitors
  • 4:41pm
    Harry Kite on for Reece Cole, Kyle Taylor for Tom Carroll and Caleb Watts for Dion Rankine
  • 4:45pm
    Oh dear. Sam Cosgrove blasts over about eight yards out after a scramble in the box.
  • 4:47pm
    Mael de Gevigney pulls one back
  • 4:48pm
    Cadden's cross headed back across goal by Shepherd and nodded into the bottom left corner. by the Frenchman
  • 4:49pm
    Mael now has to defend east other. end and concedes corner
  • 4:51pm
    Six added minutes
  • 4:54pm
    Sam Cosgrove takes one for the team with a foul about 30 yards from goal
  • 4:57pm
    Exeter goal kick in 96th minute. That could be it
  • 4:57pm
    Cotter long throw. Cleared. Connell deflected shot inches wide
  • 4:58pm
    FULL-TIME: Barnsley 1, Exeter 2.