Match report: Barnsley 0 Birmingham City 3

A downbeat David Flitcroft after defeat against Birmingham City
A downbeat David Flitcroft after defeat against Birmingham City
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Beleaguered Barnsley’s shocking performance - and thoroughly-deserved defeat - proved the final straw for the Oakwell board on Saturday night.

Boss David Flitcroft had been under pressure after a dismal start to the current campaign, but the woeful effort against fellow Championship strugglers Birmingham City - particularly in the first half - meant the manager simply had to pay the ultimate price.

In many ways it’s sad to have seen the Reds struggle so miserably after the never-to-be-forgotten heroics of the second half of last term, but the motivation has clearly been lacking in recent weeks and months, and few will have been surprised when the axe was swung after this nightmare result left Barnsley still rooted in the drop zone.

Just two wins all season is a shocking return. With the Reds three behind at half-time, the writing was on the wall.

After a chorus of boos had rung out at the whistle and Flitcroft and his shell-shocked players remained locked behind closed doors for almost two hours, news finally filtered through that it was all over for predecessor Keith Hill’s former assistant.

And rightly so.

Following the previous weekend’s narrow defeat at Millwall, Flitcroft opted to make just two changes for what would turn out to be his final starting line-up.

It was no surprise to see the now-departed manager throw Marcus Tudgay straight in up front as he began a second loan spell with the Reds.

Stephen Dawson was also back in to add a little more steel to the midfield four.

Dropping to the bench were Kelvin Etuhu and Jacob Mellis.

With recent Premier Leaguers Birmingham hovering just one place above the drop zone, their manager, Lee Clark, has also been feeling the heat of late, though he made just the single change after his side had picked up a very useful four points from their previous two games.

Shane Ferguson was added to the midfield, with Chris Burke dropped to the bench.

The Reds were embarrassingly poor in the first half. It had begun encouragingly enough with Marcus Pedersen’s header forcing Darren Randolph into an early save, but Flitcroft began his slide down the slippery slope in the 13th minute.

Blues full-back Paul Caddis strode unchallenged towards the heart of the hosts’ defence and, after skipping past a feeble challenge from the normally reliable David Perkins, he buried a shot past Jack Butland from 20 yards.

Eight minutes later it was 2-0, though this time the penalty decision which led to the second goal seemed harsh on the Reds.

Jean-Yves M’voto did bundle into giant striker Nikola Zigic, but the Croatian tumbled over theatrically and the referee pointed to the spot.

Caddis was again assured as he slotted coolly past Butland.

Much worse was to follow eight minutes before the interval.

This time Jim O’Brien was guilty of a lazy attempted back-pass which was way short of intended recipient Butland.

In charged Zigic who raced clear before clipping the ball cheekily over the keeper and into the gaping goal.

The boos had reached a crescendo by this time, and as Flitcroft looked on from the touchline, almost motionless, he probably knew then that his time at Barnsley was up.

He made a double change at the interval, with Tomasz Cywka and Jacob Mellis replacing the ineffective O’Brien and Perkins, and the Polish winger did inject some purpose.

Twice he tested Randolph with decent strikes from distance, while Dawson tried his luck too, forcing saves out of the ‘keeper.

The Reds’ efforts appeared almost futile, however, with Birmingham seemingly happy to sit back on their lead and take home an easy three points.

It was the visitors who came closest to scoring again in the closing minutes, with Manchester United loan star Jesse Lingard racing clear down the right before blazing a shot inches over the top.

Again aggressive boos rang out at the final whistle and assembled hacks all feared the worst for Flitcroft. Those fears were - eventually - realised.

Now the attention focuses on who is going to be the next person charged with trying to keep Barnsley in the Championship.

Whoever it is, another momentous battle to avoid the drop surely beckons.

Another Flitcroft-esque survival charge is needed with a squad which is totally shot of confidence.

And that’s ahead of daunting back-to-back trips to high-flying pair Brighton and Burnley.