Barnsley fell to a disappointing 2-1 defeat against Exeter City at Oakwell on Saturday afternoon.
Following a drab first half where the visitors established a deserved two-goal advantage through Jack Aitchison and Reece Cole, the Reds were vastly improved after the interval and clawed one back through Maël de Gevigney but couldn’t find that elusive equaliser to claim a share of the spoils.
Despite the loss – a first in 12 Sky Bet League One outings – Barnsley remain in the top six and in the mix for promotion.
Unfortunately, we made a lacklustre start and could have been two behind before the visitors went ahead, with Liam Roberts denying both Cole and Vincent Harper in the opening stages.
Exeter eventually took the lead when former Red Aitchison weaved his way into the area and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner with 17 minutes on the clock.
It was a goal that had been coming for some time, and we didn’t heed those warnings as Aitchison again skipped beyond a couple of challenges but failed to get an attempt away as the visitors searched for a second.
Inevitably, the Grecians did double their lead through a moment of real quality when Cole produced a Cruyff turn on the edge of the area before bending a curling strike into the far corner.
Hungry for more, Exeter almost added to their tally through Sonny Cox, who capitalised on a loose ball only to see his attempt ricochet off the post.
The Reds did manage to muster an effort before the break as Devante Cole nodded wide from a Max Watters flick on, but it was never in danger of finding the target.
HALF-TIME: Barnsley 0-2 Exeter City
It was a much-improved showing from Barnsley after the restart, with John McAtee forcing Viljami Sinisalo into a decent save having latched onto Sam Cosgrove’s knock down.
Cole was next to be frustrated by the Grecians’ stopper as he scampered clear but saw his shot blocked at the near post.
The Reds continued to push for a way back into the contest and thought it had arrived just after the hour mark when Adam Phillips chested the ball down and cracked a thunderous half-volley against the crossbar before Cosgrove steered narrowly wide from Nicky Cadden’s cross.
Luca Connell’s introduction with 20 minutes remaining looked to give us more impetuous, and the diminutive midfielder was immediately in the thick of things as he sprayed a beautiful pass wide to Phillips, who in turn found McAtee to fire home, only to be denied by an offside flag.
Our number 48 was at it again shortly after, regaining possession in the centre of the park before surging forward an unleashing a howitzer from range that Sinisalo swatted behind for a corner.
Chances continued to come and go, with perhaps the most gilt-edged falling to Cosgrove five minutes from time, but the Reds’ striker could only blaze over the bar from close range.
Persistence paid off eventually when Cadden’s corner was put back into the mix by Jack Shepherd and de Gevigney stooped bravely to head into the bottom corner and give us a glimmer of hope as we entered the closing stages.
It was too little, too late, however, as the visitors held on for all three points.
FULL-TIME: Barnsley 1-2 Exeter City
REDS XI: Roberts (GK), O’Keeffe (Cotter, 46), Williams (C), de Gevigney, Shepherd, Cadden, Russell (Connell, 70), Phillips, McAtee, Cole, Watters (Cosgrove, 46).
Not used: Killip (GK), Łopata, Atkinson, Marsh.
EXETER XI: Sinisalo (GK), Jules, Carroll (Taylor, 81), Cole (Kite, 81), Niskanen, Cox (Wildschut, 70), Rankine (Watts, 81), Sweeney (C), Aitchison, Harper (Hartridge, 64), Diabate.
Not used: MacDonald (GK), Fitzwater.