Reds punished by ref’s Wiseman offside decision blunder and go bottom after seventh defeat in nine - but boss takes positives from performance

On loan keeper Jack Butland makes his debut at Leicester.
On loan keeper Jack Butland makes his debut at Leicester.
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Barnsley boss David Flitcroft is trying everything he can to revive the fortunes of the struggling club.

But how much time does Flitcroft have left before he becomes another managerial casualty at Oakwell?

Ultimately results dictate whether a manager keeps his job – and right now the results are very disappointing.

Derby County boss Nigel Clough was sacked on Saturday and his side are seven points ahead of the Reds and hovering in mid-table.

The Reds’ performances have been good in patches, but four points from a possible 27 so far tells the story.

With seven defeats from nine league outings the Reds are bottom of the Championship.

And with tough tests in their next two matches – at home to Reading tomorrow night and away to league leaders QPR on Saturday – Flitcroft’s short tenure could even be over before the pending international break.

I’d like to think Flitcroft will be given longer to turn things around after the heroics he worked last season, especially with the exciting loan signings of Jack Butland and David Fox just added to his squad.

And with new additions Paddy McCourt, Marcus Pedersen and Dale Jennings all ready for a run of games, there are certainly some grounds for optimism.

But Flitcroft knows only too well that many managers before him have fallen on their sword already this season in this cut-throat industry.

“It is only football and we’re fighting so hard to get the solutions,” stressed Flitcroft.

“I know where we’re at and I’m under pressure, but I’m certainly up for a fight with this group of players.

“I believe in the players and I know they believe in what we’re trying to do.

“We’ve got a lot of teams yet [to play] who we can beat and we will beat. We certainly won’t lose the will to fight.

“We achieved something last season [in avoiding relegation] and I’m certain we’ll be able to draw on those experiences. We’ll start winning.”

A 5-4-1 formation for the first-half against the Foxes might not have impressed many Reds’ supporters, but Flitcroft’s plan – as he admitted after defeat - was to be level-pegging at the break and to look for a counter goal in the second half. But playing so defensively only invited pressure on the Reds fragile back line and, after 17 minutes of the second half, it was the home side who had a two-goal cushion.

That could have been different if Scott Wiseman hadn’t been unlucky to have a 22nd minute opener ruled out for offside.

McCourt slotted the wing-back through and picked out the bottom right corner, but referee Philip Gibbs cancelled out the effort after consultation with his linesman.

Flitcroft said television replays showed that Wiseman was in fact “a yard onside”.

“I’ve seen the first goal and it’s half a yard onside,” reflected Flitcroft. “To have gone 1-0 up against Leicester might have changed the outcome.”

But regardless of what might have been the Reds conceded two more goals – that’s a worrying 24 goals rom in nine league games so far (29 in ten games in all competitions) – and, like many times already this season, they were forced to chase the game.

Defeat was also the Reds’ fourth in a row in the league and made it the club’s worst start for over 50 years.

Something clearly needs to be done otherwise Flitcroft will soon be following his good friend Keith Hill out of the Oakwell exit door.

The other alarming stat is that the Reds have now not won away in the league since February when they beat Middlesbrough 3-2.

That’s a miserable run of 13 games without a win on the road in the league and 14 games in total if you include last season’s 5-0 loss to Manchester City in the FA Cup.

“There was certainly a fight in the team and some positives,” added Flitcroft.

“I’ve got players that can threaten and hurt teams like Paddy McCourt, Dale Jennings, Tomasz Cywka and Jason Scotland, but unfortunately we’ve come away with another defeat which is disappointing.

“But I was encouraged by the performance of a good percentage of the players.”

Flitcroft made five changes to his starting line-up with an extra forced change just before kick-off when Crystal Palace loan defender Peter Ramage pulled out with a back spasm.

Tom Kennedy fitted into the five-man defence and Jacob Mellis was promoted to the bench having not being in the matchday squad.

Frenchman Jean-Yves M’voto made two fine blocks on shots from David Nugent, while at the other end winger Dale Jennings twice blasted wide from distance.

Former Reds’ loan midfielder Danny Drinkwater rifled straight at Jack Butland, the Stoke City loan keeper, making his debut for the visitors alongside Norwich City loan recruit David Fox.

Butland pulled off a fine fingertip save to turn Lloyd Dyer’s deflected shot past his right post and then thwarted Jamie Vardy with another good block.

Dyer poked just past the right upright seven minutes before the break and then Liam Moore saw a shot deflected wide. There was even time for Anthony Knockaert to shoot over before the break.

The pressure finally told and five minutes after the restart Nugent picked out the bottom left corner with a cool finish and then Butland undid all his earlier good work by felling the striker in the box.

Nugent stepped up and made no mistake from the spot and looked to have put the result to bed.

But substitutes Cywka and Scotland provided some much-needed impetus for the Reds.

Kennedy whipped in a delightful cross to the back post in the 73rd minute and unmarked Scotland gladly headed into the bottom left corner.

Cywka forced Kasper Schmeichel into action twice within a couple of minutes.

Then, with seven minutes remaining, Schmeichel pulled off a fine save to tip Cywka’s long-range drive past his right post.

But Schmeichel saved his best save until the 83rd minute. Skipper Martin Cranie thought he’d scored with a bullet header, but the keeper produced a world-class block to make sure his side secured the points.