Frustrated Barnsley boss Danny Wilson has called for his “unsettled” side to “re-group” after a disappointing away defeat to Walsall.
The Reds took the lead against the Saddlers but then leaked three goals as they slipped to their third defeat in five matches. And with a growing injury list, which includes star striker Sam Winnall, Wilson’s job won’t get any easier with the Reds facing a tough festive period.
“The players are lacking a bit of confidence,” admitted Wilson. “When you lose games you lose your confidence a bit, of course you do.
“It’s one of those times in the season when we need to re-group and have a little sit down and get everybody together again.
“At this moment in time, with all the changes in personnel, well it’s unsettling people.
“Overall the biggest problem we’ve had so far this season is the change of personnel – and how often it’s been.
“There’s not a lot we can do at this moment of time, even though some of the young lads have done well.
“The youngsters have done well, but deep down we know they’re probably not quite ready.”
Ironically the Reds had the best possible start when Lewin Nyatanga headed them into a 29th minute lead.
But the visitors squandered their lead just two minutes later and were behind three minutes after that in a frantic five minutes.
Jordan Cook equalised with a stunning half volley and then Tom Bradhsaw fired home to turn the match on it’s head.
The Reds had good chances to level but wasted them and to rub salt into an open wound Wilson’s team conceded third goal in the fourth minute of injury-time.
The third goal was especially hard on the Reds for they had dominated for large periods of the contest.
But pushing hard for an equaliser they were caught cold and their struggling defensive was again penetrated.
To make matters worse goalscorer Nyatanga limped off with a groin injury late in the second half is now unlikely to be available for Tuesday night’s FA Cup second round replay away to Conference side Chester.
“To concede in the 94th minute was poor and we’ve lost the game,” reflected Wilson.
“We should have got something out of the game, so that’s the disappointment.
“We need to embrace the pressure and enjoy it, because you get pressure in every game we play.
“Rather than let us upset us, the pressure is something we should embrace and, at this moment in time, some of the boys are finding it very difficult.
“The final ball, particularly in the first half, was poor. We had the lion’s share of possession in the second half and we didn’t make it count.
“A little bit of hesitancy in the final third has been costing us.
“The young lads that came in did well. The biggest disappointment we’ve had is losing players [through injury] at this stage but the lads who have come in have done well.
“It’s not the ideal set-up. You want the players at your disposal otherwise you’re expecting young players to come in and perform.
“The second goal was down to ourselves - a mix-up. The third goal makes it seem there was quite a distance between the two teams and it was far from that.
“In all honesty I didn’t think there was much between the teams.”
Wilson was forced to shuffle his pack with left-back Joe Dudgeon missing with a hamstring injury and centre-back Peter Ramage sidelined with a quad injury.
And strikers Leroy Lita and Kane Hemmings both dropped to the substitute’s bench with four changes in all from Sunday,
Reece Brown and youngster Mason Holgate filled in in the full-back positions, with Manchester City loan marksman Devante Cole back from illness to start and winger Dale Jennings handed the chance to impress.
And despite the disruption of changes the Reds started brightly. Midfielder Luke Berry volleyed, while at the other end Cook saw a chip fly narrowly over the bar.
Conor Hourihane blasted wide as the Reds pushed hard for the opener and then the breakthrough came.
Irishman Hourihane whipped in a delightful corner and Nyatanga rose brilliantly to power a header home for his second goal in three games.
But the Reds saw their lead wiped out almost immediately when Cook rifled a stunning half-volley beyond helpless Reds’ keeper Ross Turnbull.
“They scored a worldie goal for their equaliser,” said Wilson. “It could have gone anywhere, but it’s ended up in the top corner.”
Bradshaw wasted a great chance to put the Saddlers in front a minute later, blazing over when in a one-on-one situation with Turnbull.
But his miss mattered not as he netted with a neat finish to give the hosts the lead at the break.
Hourihane forced a smart stop from Richard O’Donnell and Jennings was also thwarted by the Saddlers’ keeper.
But a failure to convert their chances cost Wilson’s side and Cook latched on to a pass from substitute Mathieu Manset and bagged his second goal to kill off the contest.
“The second one [goal] was a mistake, which you sometimes get in games,” conceded Wilson.
“Then there was a two on one situation which they scored again and, after that, well it was all us.
“We’ve had opportunities, great chances, but we’ve just frittered them away at times.”
Walsall: O’Donnell 7, Purkiss 7, Downing 7, Chambers 7, Henry 6, Baxendale 6 (Forde 68, 6), Cain 7, Chambers 7, Cook 9, Sawyers 6, Bradshaw 8 (Manset 87).
Subs: O’Connor, Benning, Flanagan, Grimes, MacGillvray.
Barnsley: Turnbull 6, Holgate 6, Cranie 6, Nyatanga 7 (Cowgill 79, 5), Brown 5, Abbott 5 (Hemmings 77), Hourihane 6, Jennings 6, Trotta 5 (Lita 62, 5), Cole 5.
Subs: Treacy, Digby, Boakye-Yiadom, Davies.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland)
Attendance: 4,433 (away 503)