Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom knows his new-look squad still have plenty of work to do this season following a chastening opening-day defeat at Lee Johnson’s Bristol City.
Optimism was high pre-match that the Reds would impress ahead of their second campaign back in the second tier.
However, against a Bristol side who struggled throughout much of the 2016-17 campaign, Heckingbottom’s men found themselves 3-0 down after barely half-an-hour.
Heckingbottom said: “In the first 10 minutes there really was nothing in the game. But the turning point was obviously the first goal.
“From then on, we saw what is fundamentally wrong with us, especially looking at the goals. We have to deal with the long ball - they got in twice with that same ball. Then we’ve not stopped a cross, and we’ve also let them come inside. That’s a big, big thing we don’t want opposition teams to do.”
Up against former boss Johnson, the Reds were very much second best during an at-times fraught opening 45 minutes at Ashton Gate.
There was early promise when George Moncur curled a terrific strike against the crossbar, but prospects dipped from then.
Bobby Reid slotted home a rebound, before Senegalese hit-man Famara Diedhiou doubled Bristol’s lead with a pinpoint header.
Reid’s fortunate third goal after half-an-hour meant that the Reds had effectively blown their opening-day chances before half-time.
Sub Ryan Hedges had to wait until deep into stoppage-time before grabbing a consolation goal, tapping home following some neat approach play from Moncur.
Championship is ‘unforgiving’
Heckingbottom more or less guaranteed improvement from his side after reflecting on what was a disappointing opening-day loss at Bristol City.
Following their unforgettable promotion via the League One play-offs in May, 2016, the Reds went on to enjoy terrific first campaign back in the Championship after seven years, with the team eventually finishing 14th following a blistering start.
However, already Heckingbottom has seen how much tougher the 2017-18 season could well turn out to be for his freshened-up squad.
The Reds have recruited a full team’s worth of new talent in the summer, but maybe the big-name departures are set to take their toll over the next few months.
Heckingbottom said: “Our problem is that even with 11 new players we are still way short of where we want to be.
“But we know where we’re at.
“Saturday’s result was tough to take, but we know where we want to be and how hard we’ll have to work to get there.
“We were much better in the second half on Saturday. We grew into the game and we got ourselves a goal at the end.
“We are going to get better, though. We have to. We have now seen that the Championship is unforgiving.”
Johnson laps up banter
Bristol City’s former Reds boss Lee Johnson reckons the Oakwell faithful do like him really.
Johnson was in charge at Barnsley between February, 2015 and February, 2016, before jumping ship when Bristol came calling.
His current team convincingly beat Paul Heckingbottom’s on Saturday at Ashton Gate, a match during which many of the 1,200-strong travelling army boo’d and chanted some derogatory songs, particularly during the second half.
Johnson said: “It’s just a bit of banter. I think they really like me.
“I’m sure they were just welcoming me as they always do and I look forward to seeing them again soon.”