KEITH Hill cut a “frustrated” figure as his side missed a trick and slipped to a surprise loss away to Championship strugglers Coventry City.
Such is the progress which has been made under Hill’s management at Oakwell this season, it’s no wonder the Reds’ players were left “down” after defeat to the Sky Blues.
Clive Platt’s 91st-minute header winner was a real sickener for the visitors who thought that they had done enough for a point.
And the Reds could have been beaten 2-0 if midfielder Gary McSheffrey’s 93rd-minute strike had not hit the underside of the crossbar and rebounded to safety.
But switch off in the Championship and you are often punished, especially against opponents desperate for points as they look to haul themselves out of the relegation zone.
And, in truth, the home side probably deserved their victory having looked the likelier of the two sides to score.
The Reds fathomed just ONE chance all afternoon – and that was midfielder Michael Tongue’s right-foot shot which flew well wide of the target midway through the first half.
“It’s a big hit for the players because we’ve worked hard on what we’ve wanted to achieve in the week and we were so close. It’s marginal football,” reflected Hill.
“They’re frustrated, a little bit down, but they’ll recover in time for the Nottingham Forest game [on Saturday].”
Perhaps worrying was Hill’s admission that: “I wasn’t bothered about creating chances, I wasn’t here to entertain.”
By Hill’s own admission, the Reds set out to stifle their hosts with a five-man midfield, happy come away from their trip to the West Midlands with a point.
But failing to hit the target – and having created that solitary chance – made sure this contest was heading for a drab draw all day. Hill’s plan nearly worked but for a lapse of concentration which gifted striker Platt his injury-time winner
“I was mindful of the league and mindful of the points we need,” added Hill. “It’s just unfortunate we haven’t got the point we deserved.
“In the first half I was encouraged by the way we counter-attacked and we did get opportunities.
“In the second half we didn’t look under any threat really, we’re talking about Luke Steele not having to make a major save. He threw his cap on a lot of things.
“There was a lot of huffing and puffing from Coventry but for the 91st minute.
“It was obvious they were trying to go through Clive Platt. We stopped that threat but he ends up scoring a 91st-minute goal as a consequence of one of our players not showing his responsibility for the team.”
Hill made four changes to his side which lost 3-1 at home to promotion-chasing Birmingham City on Tuesday night.
Midfielder Stephen Dawson was handed his debut, while Scott Goldbourne, Stephen Foster and Michael Tongue returned to the starting line-up. That meant talented teenager Paul Digby missed out, not even included in the squad, while Matt Done, David Cotterill and Chris Dagnall dropped to the bench.
But the Reds looked devoid of ideas despite keeper Steele having little to do.
Manchester City loan recruit Alex Nimely shot over in the 17th minute, before Tongue had the Reds’ solitary shot seven minutes later.
Five minutes before the break skipper Rob Edwards mis-read a punted long ball which allowed Nimely through on goal, but Steele spread himself and the striker dragged his left-foot shot wide of the right upright. It was a real let-off for Hill’s team.
McSheffrey curled a free-kick over on the hour mark and not long after Manchester United loan midfielder Oliver Norwood forced Steele to make a low save at his near post.
Platt headed wide at the back post from Nimely’s cross and then hooked a close-range shot straight at Steele.
But, with the draw seemingly achieved, McSheffrey picked out Platt and the experienced hitman headed beyond Steele to ease his side’s relegation worries.
“I’d have definitely settled for a point, 100 per cent. It was a must-not-lose game,” said Hill. “We’re playing away from home, we’ve nullified the threat. Even when they did put a little bit of pressure on in the second half we dealt with it.”
“But the only thing I’m concerned about his getting to 50 points as quickly as we can in the 13 remaining games so I can have a much-needed and well-earned rest.”