Despite there being just two matches remaining in the Sky Bet Championship campaign, Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom has still demanded improvements from his team.
The Reds’ miserable end-of-season run continued as they allowed hosts Bristol City to twice come from behind and secure a 3-2 victory at Ashton Gate.
After a terrific first half of the season following promotion, Heckingbottom’s team have faded fast in recent months, and they have now won just once in their last 12 matches.
After their latest reverse, Heckingbottom said: “The players know they have to be better, but they’ve known they need to be better in every game.
“Everyone saw weaknesses in this game and why we badger them, because moments like this we’re seeing schoolboy defending.
“That wasn’t just for the goals, but throughout the second half.
“The second half here highlighted the things we talk about every day behind closed doors.
“Our two centre-backs have been holding the back four together and losing Marc Roberts to injury exposed other people’s frailties.
“It’s always a team game, though. We win and we lose games together. It’s important that we keeping pushing and pushing for a perfect performance.”
George Moncur’s shot shortly before the break deflected in off Alex Mowatt to hand the Reds the lead at a packed Ashton Gate.
However, Tammy Abraham stabbed home his 23rd league goal of the season to even it up shortly after the restart.
Moncur’s wonder strike restored the Reds’ lead, but Bristol weren’t to be denied and Jamie Paterson levelled for a second time with 20 minutes left.
The winner came shortly after as centre-back Aden Flint rose superbly to head home and lift his side six points clear of the drop zone with just two games remaining.
Losing Roberts changed game
Heckingbottom was firmly of the belief that losing central defender Marc Roberts to injury at half-time changed the course of the game.
Barnsley were looking relatively comfortable as they led at half-time thanks to Alex Mowatt’s deflected effort, but the hosts bagged three in the second period to secure a deserved three points.
Heckingbottom said: “It was a match-changing injury. We had to re-organise our back line and we never looked the same team.
“Having said that, I won’t use that as an excuse. Injuries give other players opportunities, but on this day they weren’t taken.
“We got what we deserved in the end and I learned a bit more about my players going forward.
“Roberts would have been marking Aden Flint for his winning goal, but we needed to be better after starting the game well.”
The flying Jaffa Cakes
Bristol City’s former Reds boss Lee Johnson admitted that harsh words were said at half-time, leading to a successful second period revival.
Fighting for their Championship lives, the hosts were behind at the interval, but they roared back to secure a deserved win.
Johnson, who endured a topsy-turvy rein at Oakwell between February, 2015, and February, 2016, said of his side’s performance: “We just didn’t stick to our game-plan in the first half so there were a few Jaffa Cakes flying round the dressing room at half-time.
“Some home truths were delivered, I can tell you.
“In the second half Tammy Abraham and Matty Taylor were brilliant up front and the rest of the team responded.
“The crowd were unbelievable and in the end it was a terrific effort.”
Just a point from either Saturday’s trip to Brighton or a final-day home game against Birmingham will seal Bristol’s safety.