Neill Collins says Barnsley will ‘regret’ a first half performance in today’s 2-1 home loss to Exeter City which was: ‘devoid of energy, enthusiasm and quality’.

The Reds struggled badly in the first half and went 2-0 down.

Collins told the Chronicle: “I am so disappointed with the first half. We were off it in every aspect of the game. Mael de Gevigney held us together and showed desire, which was the only positive. Outside of that, we were devoid of energy, enthusiasm and quality. It was a very very difficult first half to watch.

“The fans were absolutely right with their reaction at half-time (booing the team off). You just make it too hard for yourself when you’re as poor as that, despite creating enough chances in the second half to win the game.

“It was a lot worse than Carlisle which was down to individual mistakes and a scrappy game with nothing in it and we went on to win. Today we lacked intensity from the start.”

Collins was reluctant to use the absence of some key players as an excuse. He said: “When you miss Jamie McCart, Herbie Kane and Luca Connell and Callum Styles, they are big players. But we’re still capable of winning games with this team. We just didn’t have the right intensity and energy. We looked devoid of ideas in possession.”

Barnsley were far better after the break, missing several chances before Mael de Gevigney pulled one back late on. Collins said: “We should have got the goal earlier. If we did I think we would have drawn if not won.

“We pushed right from the first whistle in the second half and made chances relentlessly. We created a bucketload of chances.”

The result ended an 11-game unbeaten run for Barnsley in league games. They were also unbeaten in nine home games since September.

Collins said: “There will be ups and downs. We’ve had a good run. But we’ll look back and think that was a real frustrating afternoon to give up points. If you can’t get three, you get one.

“We will regret not having any today. But it’s up to the players to regroup like after Derby, learn lessons and go again. We will need to vastly improve our first half performance to have a chance of winning at Bolton next week.”

Goalkeeper Liam Roberts added: “To a man we weren’t good enough in the first half. The intensity was low, the tempo was low. They kept getting on the second and third balls and we couldn’t get any momentum. They took their chances. Second half was a lot better and the subs changed the game but it needs to be a full 90 minutes performance. We will go into next Saturday trying to repair when we’ve done today.”

Max Watters made his first start in the league since November, but was taken off at half-time for Sam Cosgrove who played well despite missing two good chances.

Collins said: “I will digest it and think if I got my team selection and tactics right.”

He added: “Sam would have been disappointed not to start. Max along with many others had a disappointing first half. The team was just not functioning and I had to make a change at half-time.

“I felt Sam would give us the ability to get the ball forward and give Exeter something to think about. Sam, outside of not scoring, helped us with that.”

Luca Connell returned from illness for the final 20 minutes for Jon Russell who had struggled, with Connell impressing in his cameo.

“He could only play 20 minutes. He’s been ill all week and even yesterday it was touch and go if he would be on the bench. In other circumstances I wouldn’t have had him on the bench because we can’t risk him. We thought we might need him.

“Herbie (Kane), Styles, Luca is a lot of midfielders to be missing and we probably missed them a little today.”

Kane missed the game with injury. He could possible return next Saturday. Collins said: “He is so important that we couldn’t risk him with a twinge. We needed to give him the best chance of being available for the rest of the season.”

Callum Styles was also not involved. He was thought to be close to a move to Sunderland last week.

“It’s still on the table but he wasn’t well anyway. Regardless of any talks, he wouldn’t have been able to play. We hope he feels better and we will see what the next few days bring in terms of the transfer window.”