THE Reds emerged second best from their trip to the KC Stadium on a day when boss Keith Hill was installed as the early bookies’ favourite for the vacant manager’s job at Blackpool.
It remains to be seen whether Bloomfield Road chiefs see fit to officially approach Hill as they seek a replacement for Crystal Palace-bound Ian Holloway, but on Saturday it looked as though a certain spark was missing from the Reds’ play as they rarely troubled Tigers’ keeper Ben Amos on a shot-shy afternoon.
Hill did admit that he was ‘pleased’ to have been made favourite for the Blackpool job, but as far as Saturday went he also acknowledged that his Reds team just weren’t good enough.
With his side now on a slightly worrying run of just one win in seven Championship games, Hill was forthright in his views: “We were beaten by the better side.
“When it was just 1-0 at half-time there was still a glimmer of hope for us, but we didn’t have enough about us to affect the outcome and that’s difficult.
“There was no cutting edge, and for some reason – particularly in the first half – we looked nervy.
“We’ll just have to work to get the confidence levels back up now in time for Tuesday’s game at Derby.”
There was some significant team news from the Reds’ camp ahead of the weekend’s clash, with perhaps the most noteworthy being the welcome return of number one ‘keeper Luke Steele from injury.
He was back to make his first appearance of the season and replaced Ben Alnwick, while in the midfield Martin Cranie returned following a calf injury.
The third and final change from the team well beaten by Forest a week earlier came up front where Marlon Harewood was replaced by Kelvin Etuhu who stepped in to make his first league start in the lone striker role.
Notable names among the Reds’ substitutes were those of Jim O’Brien and Toni Silva who had both been out for some time through injury.
The Reds were dismal in the first half though – one which saw them create just one half-decent half-chance when Matt Done headed well wide in the 27th minute.
After Corry Evans had volleyed an early effort narrowly wide, the Tigers roared into the lead after 16 minutes – and it was a hugely disappointing goal from a Reds point of view.
The visiting defence fell asleep at a short-corner routine allowing Ahmed Elmohamady to find Sone Aluko.
The Nigerian crossed into the box where a John Stones clearing header went straight back from where it came and Aluko steadied himself before lashing home a sweet low drive past Steele via a slight deflection.
Once more a defensive mistake had proved very costly, although at least the Reds managed not to concede any more before the interval.
Slovenian midfield ace Robert Koren was Barnsley’s tormentor-in-chief as he ran the show and looked a class act.
Just before the hour mark Koren saw a shot deflected just wide before the visitors responded with Tomasz Cywka charging towards the heart of the Tigers’ defence before seeing his low drive fizz inches wide.
That was about as good as it got for the Reds though as Hull eased towards their victory target in the closing 20 minutes.
Steele was again called upon to keep Koren out, then the Reds’ No 1 produced a stunning point-blank save to keep out Jay Simpson with 12 minutes left.
All in all it proved to be a miserable day for the Reds, although Hill’s opposite number Steve Bruce appeared mightily relieved when he offered up his thoughts after the game.
Bruce said: “It definitely wasn’t pretty but the better team won.
“We maybe just needed that second goal and we’ve have been comfortable.
“Our Achilles heel has been missed chances this season, but overall I have to be pleased as we’ve created a few opportunities and we’ve come away with a clean sheet which I’m delighted about.
“We were a bit anxious at times and we were forced to defend a bit deeper than I would have liked, but you have to show that kind of resilience at this level.
“We’re slowly turning our home form around.”
For Barnsley and for Hill they have to turn their form round as well for this was a poor afternoon.