Barnsley U23s were unfortunate to fall to a 2-1 defeat at Coventry City on the opening day of the Professional Development League campaign.
Goals either side of the interval from Will Bapaga and Max Biamou were enough to give the Sky Blues all three points, with Jordan Barnett halving the deficit in injury time.
But it was the young Reds who looked the more likely to return to South Yorkshire with a hard-fought victory, particularly in the first half with Aiden Marsh and Elliot Simoes’ movement causing the home defence a multitude of problems.
Jack Walton had to be at his best to keep out an early Dexter Walters shot high to his left, before Barnett stung the hands of Tom Billson with a fierce drive.
Barnsley continued to force the issue and almost opened the scoring when Barnett’s deep free-kick threatened to drift into the top corner, while Alex Wollerton and Marsh both fired wide.
The Reds lost Romal Palmer to injury just after the half hour mark, but still looked the more likely to break the deadlock despite the absence of their influential midfielder.
However, it was City who would land the first blow as Bapaga stole in at the far post to head home with almost three minutes of stoppage time played.
HALF-TIME: Coventry City 1-0 Barnsley
Coventry started the second half much brighter and Walters was again denied by Walton, who plunged down to his right to tip the ball wide.
The Reds’ stopper had to be at his best once more, this time to thwart Jonny Ngandu who unleashed a fierce long-range drive high towards goal.
But Barnsley grew into the contest once more and almost pulled level when Marsh swivelled on the edge of the box and crashed a thunderous effort towards the corner, only for Billson to get the faintest of fingertips to touch the shot wide.
Rudi Pache then capitalised on some slack defending but was also denied by Billson, this time with his feet as the Reds continued to hammer on the door.
Substitute Chris Sang also came close to netting an equaliser, but his shot from distance whistled narrowly over the bar.
Once more, against the run of play, City dealt Barnsley a sucker punch as Biamou was on hand to slam home from close range with 20 minutes remaining.
It was harsh on the Reds, but Martin Devaney’s side were unrelenting in their pursuit of a way back into the contest and Sang once more called Billson into action as the City ‘keeper pulled off a fine save down to his right.
Barnsley were eventually rewarded for their hard work and persistence when Barnett found the back of the net two minutes into stoppage time, but it was too little too late for the young Reds who succumbed to defeat at the Alan Higgs Centre.
CITY XI: Billson, Rowe (Martin, 43), Maycock, Drysdale, Brown (Bremang, 46), Ngandu, Bartlett, Young, Walters, Biamou, Bapaga (Wakefield, 46).
Not used: Tyler, Pitts-Eckersall.
REDS XI: Walton, Pache, Fielding, Shotton, Barnett, Ward (Willard, 72), Wollerton, Martin, Palmer (Sang, 32), Marsh (Lambert, 59), Simoes.
Not used: Olatubosun.