BARNSLEY were kicking themselves after an early lapse in concentration cost them dear against league leaders QPR.
Adel Taarabt’s goal was the difference between the sides as the Hoops kept their Premier League promotion challenge on track with their second victory over the Reds this term, having thumped them 4-0 on the opening day of the season.
Reds boss Mark Robins reflected: “I’m quite upbeat because I thought we deserved more than we got. The only downside is the first 90 seconds where we’ve allowed Taraabt to put the ball into the back of the net. We should have had a penalty, but all things considered I thought we played well. I’m proud of them, even though we lost, you could tell the supporters enjoyed it.”
The Moroccan international play-maker needed just 49 seconds to give Neil Warnock’s men the lead. A brilliant piece of skill from the 21-year-old saw him rifle into the bottom right-hand corner.
Robins had made two changes to his side which beat Bristol City with Chelsea loan midfielder Jacob Mellis handed a starting role in place of the injured Hugo Colace.
And club skipper Jason Shackell returned having recovered from illness, replacing Stephen Foster to partner Paul McShane in central defence.
But the Reds made the worst possible start when, after less than a minute, their defence was penetrated by Taarabt. Robins had told his team to place close attention to Taarabt, but the playmaker found enough space to lash a powerful right-footer beyond Luke Steele.
Barnsley twice came close to levelling in the fifth minute. Shackell picked out Marlon Harewood and the striker saw his strong shot parried by former Blades’ keeper Paddy Kenny. The ball ran free for Andy Gray but Kenny produced a point-blank save from eight yards out.
A minute later Jacob Butterfield whipped in a cross but Shackell headed wide of the left post.
The Reds kept pressing and Danny Haynes was unlucky as his angled drive fizzed over the bar, before seven minutes later midfielder Nathan Doyle rifled over. At the other end, Heidar Helguson found space in front of the Reds’ back four, but his right-foot shot didn’t trouble Steele.
Manchester City loan youngster Kieran Trippier crossed towards the six-yard box where Gray was waiting to poke home, but defender Kaspars Gorkss got in front of the striker and scooped the ball over his own bar from three yards out.
Harewood and Mellis combined well and it was the Blackpool loan man who tested Kenny with a right-foot shot on the turn.
Two minutes before half-time a break saw Hill charge forward from left-back but, having cut inside onto his right foot, the full-back blazed over.
The Reds had a penalty appeal turned down in first half stoppage time after Clint Hill looked to have handled Haynes’ low right-wing cross, but the hosts were frustrated when Staffordshire official Bates waved away their angry protests.
It was not until the 59th minute when the first chance after the resumption came, Haynes dashed down the right and forced a save from Kenny at his near post.
Shortly after the hour mark Haynes should have hit the target when the ball fell to him on the penalty spot, but the forward kicked at thin air.
Robins threw on youngster Jordan Clark for his first team debut with 13 minutes to go yet the midfielder couldn’t influence the result.
Butterfield went close at the death with a right foot shot but the Reds failed to register their first win over the Hoops since February 2009.
Barnsley (4-3-3, r-l): Steele 6; Trippier 7, McShane 7, Shackell 7, Hill 7 (McEveley 77); Mellis 7 (Clark 77), Doyle 7, Butterfield 7; Harewood 7, Gray 7 (Noble-Lazarus 82), Haynes 7. Subs (not used): Preece, Foster, Arismendi, O’Brien
QPR (4-4-2): Kenny 6; Orr 6, Connolly 7, Gorkss 7, Hill 6; Routledge 6, Derry 6, Faurlin 6, Smith 6; Taarabt 7 (Ephraim 69, 5), Helguson 6. Subs (not used): Buzaky, Agyemang, Hulse, Cerny, Miller, Shittu.
Goal: Tarrabt (1)
Bookings: Barnsley - Butterfield (41); QPR - Tarrabt (35)
Referee: Anthony Bates (Staffordshire)
Attendance: 11,381 (away 1,573)