Barnsley are back at the bottom of the table and now have 11 games to secure their Championship survival.
But despite a comprehensive defeat to Watford at the weekend, Reds’ boss Danny Wilson stressed his side are “still alive and fighting” and every chance of clawing their way out of the relegation zone.
Wilson locked his team in the dressing for nearly an hour after his side slipped to a second successive 3-0 defeat.
And he admitted there were plenty of “candid” discussions between himself and the players after the final whistle at Vicarage Road.
“There’s been a lot of home truths spoken about, but it’s nothing more than you’d probably expect me to speak about,” revealed Wilson.
“There have been a lot of candid words spoken – and they needed to be because we’ve got some good games coming up yet.
“But this season is far from over. We’re still in it and we’re still alive and fighting.”
Wilson, who made five changes to his starting line-up, added: “If they [the players] are going to start believing what people are writing about us, then it [the season] will be over.
“But we’ve got to have an inner-strength and get a cocoon around us to make sure we don’t take it [the criticism] to heart and really believe we can stay up. We’ve got some good home games coming up and we can see ourselves getting some points out of the those.
“And if you look around the division, particularly where we are at this moment in time, I would bet that everybody is having the same conversations with their manager. Nobody seems to be able to get a real run together to get out of it [the relegation zone].
“But our home form has been getting better recently, so if we can hopefully win our home games, then hopefully that will be our salvation.”
First-half goals from Christian Battocchio and Troy Deeney, and a second-half strike from substitute Alexander Merkel did the damage as the ruthless Hornets took no mercy on opponents who have the worst away record in the Football League.
Defeat for the Reds saw them sink a point further away from safety, while victory for the Hornets saw them bounce back from a surprise 2-1 away defeat to Doncaster Rovers last Tuesday evening.
“We had a sucker-punch within minutes of the start of the game,” admitted Wilson.
“It’s very difficult when the home team are in the ascendancy, so it was always going to be difficult to get back into it against a team like Watford who have a great home record.
“We showed a little bit more fight in the second half in terms of our forward play, but we were always going to be vulnerable in our defensive work.
“As a group we were poor on the first two goals, but we had nothing to lose in making a few changes away from home because our record away from home is poor.
“We might as well shake it up, change it around a bit and see if we can create a spark.
“But the goals we conceded were poor and it makes it very, very difficult for you.”
As early as the second minute Deeney rifled wide of the target as the Hornets started the better of the two sides.
And then three minutes later the early pressure told as midfielder Stephen Dawson, handed the captain’s armband in the absence of Martin Cranie, horribly miscued a clearance and the ball fell fortuitously at the feet of Battocchio.
The midfielder lashed a stunning strike past Tykes keeper Luke Steele and the hosts had the perfect start.
Dubliner Dawson fired well over at the other end before Steele denied midfielder Davide Faraoni with a stunning point-blank block at his near post.
But Deeney found the back of the net a minute after when he slotted home from close-range for this 17th goal of the season after some poor defending from the lacklustre visitors.
Left-back Tom Kennedy whipped in a dangerous cross from the left seven minutes after the restarted as the unchanged Reds looked to get back into the contest.
However, the ball eluded the onrushing striker Nick Proschwitz and the hosts averted the danger.
Dale Jennings then did really well to win back the ball from Marco Cassetti, having originally lost it, but his powerful right-foot shot from the breakaway flew over the bar.
Substitute Chris O’Grady hooked a left-foot shot harmlessly over but then the Hornets put the contest to bed.
Then substitute Merkel pounced, completely unmarked, to fire into the top left corner. He probably won’t score an easier goal in his career.
But the Reds kept balling and Hull City loan hitman Proschwitz hit the crossbar with a cheeky lob and then centre-back Jean-Yves M’voto headed wide from inside the area.
However, the Reds’ rally was little too late on another frustrating afternoon in their quest to avoid the drop.
Reds winger Dale Jennings has called for the side to show “more desire and determination” in their quest to avoid Championship relegation.
Former Bayern Munich and Tranmere Rovers playmaker Jennings wants to see more from his teammates.
“We’re all fired up to avoid relegation, but I think we need a bit more desire and determination in the team,” said Jennings.
“And I think we need a bit of hope as well because some of the lads’ heads are dropping at the minute, especially after the defeat to Leicester City.
“But we’ve got to keep strong and have faith that we’re going to stay up.
“We need to have the confidence in ourselves to go and get results.
We’ve got to go into games believing that we’re going to win. We can’t go into games believing we’re going to lose – because we will.”