Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom wore a brave smile after his in-form team slipped to their first home defeat of what has so far been a terrific campaign back in the Championship.
The Reds slipped to fourth place in the second tier after raking in 15 points from eight games so far, but against ten-man Reading at Oakwell they were stunned by a frustrating 2-1 defeat.
Barnsley pummeled the Royals in the second half following Garath McCleary’s straight red card just before the half-hour mark, but by that point they were already two goals down.
Adam Armstrong pounced with a goal in the 81st minute, but the Reds couldn’t snatch a late equaliser as Royals’ ‘keeper Ali Al Habsi was in breath-taking form.
Heckingbottom said: “We dominated the ball which was pleasing, and tactically we wanted to keep winning the ball back as quickly as possible.
“We did that which was great, but credit to Reading, they defended really, really well. We scored a good goal and created a few half-chances, but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.
“We just couldn’t seem to carve them open.
“It is harder to carve a team open when they’re hanging on and defending like Reading did, and that’s why it’s important to get the first goal.”
REDS rUE RYAN’S MEAr MISS
Heckingbottom knows full well how tough life is going to be in the Championship.
Following that dream play-off final promotion day at Wembley back in the Spring, the Reds had started the 2016-17 campaign in spectacular style - winning five of their opening seven matches.
However, they were brought back down to earth at the weekend, narrowly beaten at home against a resolute Reading outfit who had played most of the match with only ten men.
Had Ryan Kent’s spectacular effort not thumped the crossbar and gone in during the opening five minutes who knows how this match might have ended up?
It’s a fine line between success and failure in England’s tough second tier as the Reds quickly found themselves two goals behind.
Heckingbottom said: “We didn’t get the first goal, and the first goal in this league is massive.
“We hit the crossbar and created a number of chances, but you can’t give teams a 2-0 lead like we did.
“Reading played great, don’t get me wrong, they were a very good side, probably the best we’ve played so far.
“But we were disappointed because we know how hard it is to come from behind in this league.
“We were given a great opportunity when Reading were reduced to 10 men, but after that they defended very well and we just couldn’t find two goals.”
keane eyes on conor?
Republic of Ireland assistant boss Roy Keane was in the Directors’ Box at Oakwell on Saturday.
Was he checking the progress of Reds skipper Conor Hourihane?
It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to many if he was.
Hourihane has started life in the Championship in terrific form, already making his mark at the higher level after playing a massive role in last term’s promotion and Trophy successes.
The 25-year-old midfield maestro looked every inch a Championship player, pulling the strings in the Reds’ energetic midfield.
He has also already contributed three goals to the cause.
No eyebrows would be raised around Oakwell if Hourihane was to gain a well-deserved international call-up, that’s for sure.