Sheffield United shaded it, thanks to a brace from Lys Mousset and one from Ben Osborn who was responsible for creating both of the Frenchman’s efforts as Slavisa Jokanovic’s men appeared to seize control.
But Barnsley, having earlier appeared devoid of confidence, self-belief and anything even resembling Championship quality, produced a spirited comeback during the closing stages. Whether strikes from substitutes Devante Cole and Aaron Leya Iseka are enough to keep Markus Schopp in a job remains to be seen, with the home supporters calling for his head at the final whistle. However, they did at least confirm there is still some fight left in the Austrian’s squad. Not that Jokanovic appreciated it as he wondered how on earth United had let their neighbours back into the contest.
With neither of these sides enjoying any great momentum - in fact, entering this game on the back of five straight defeats, the hosts were arguably in reverse - both Jokanovic and Schopp felt compelled to make changes. Barnsley made four and United five. Two of those recalled by Jokanovic after starting Tuesday’s loss to Millwall on the bench - Oli McBurnie and Mousset - combined to create the contest’s first real opening of note but the latter, collecting possession following his fellow striker’s flick-on, dragged his shot. It was a disappointing finish to a promising move. Still from United’s perspective, as Jokanovic signalled his approval on the touchline, it hinted at the possibilities to come.
Ten yards or so to the Serb’s right, Schopp’s body language betrayed the pressure which has been building upon his shoulders during three miserable months in charge.
If Jokanovic thinks he has got problems, a quick glance across the technical area should have been enough to convince him they pale into insignificance compared to those taxing his opposite number, who has won just once since being appointed during the close season.
Handed the inevitable task of replacing Valerien Ismael, who steered Barnsley into the play-offs before jumping ship for West Bromwich Albion, Schopp spent most of the afternoon pacing anxiously around the technical area. While he forlornly offered encouragement following every misplaced pass, Jokanovic simply brooded. Except when he turned away in frustration as Mousset, this time profiting from Iliman Ndiaye’s invention, helped the ball straight into the arms of a grateful Brad Collins from point blank range.
Mousset got his angles right soon after the interval, converting twice in the space of as many minutes from Osborn centres. But if United felt they could relax when the former Nottingham Forest midfielder claimed one of his own, they were sorely mistaken. Cole, having earlier been guilty of a horrendous miss, finally found his shooting boots before Leya Iseka danced through the visitors’ rearguard and smashed home beyond Robin Olsen. Had Jasper Moon not struck a post at the beginning of Barnsley’s comeback, United could have been left counting the cost of some more lapses in concentration. Instead, it is Schopp who must now wait to discover what the final price is.