Gillingham 2 Barnsley 1: Match analysis - no disgrace as great run ends at title chasers
Barnsley caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom will work hard to shake off the acute disappointment of Saturday's defeat at Gillingham this week.
That appears to be the message from the Reds camp after their dream seven-match winning streak in Sky Bet League One came to an end at the Priestfield Stadium.
It is certainly with no shame that the gutsy Reds lost at Gillingham - they have been in the promotion frame all season and the three points secured at the weekend lifted them back into the top two.
However, Heckingbottom pointed at defensive errors as the main reason why his team finally tasted defeat after such a heroic run under him and earlier, now departed boss Lee Johnson.
Heckingbottom said: “The run had to come to an end at some point, but I was disappointed with the manner in which it did.
“I was disappointed with the goals we conceded because it seemed that Gillingham had two shots on target and scored with both of them.
“You can imagine the frustration. The lads responded brilliantly in the second half, but we just lacked that bit of quality in the final third.
“We got our rewards with an equalising goal, but then there’s been a little lack of discipline, which is something we have worked on - being strong and controlling the middle of the pitch.
“Our two midfielders get split and there’s a big gap in the middle of the park. We needed cool heads at that point, but we were punished in the end.”
There were no surprises in the teamsheets, temporary management team Heckingbottom and Tommy Wright kept faith with the starting XI that performed so well the previous Sunday in dispatching Bury 3-0 at Oakwell.
The only alteration came among the substitutes, with Otis Khan earning one of the seven spots at the expense of the injured Jak McCourt.
Gills boss Justin Edinburgh made a couple of changes in the wake of a disappointing goalless home draw against Swindon.
Both full-backs were replaced as the hosts were looking to improve a dip in form which had brought just one victory from five games.
It was a rather disappointing first period at the Priestfield, with few chances being created on a wet and miserable Kent afternoon.
The Reds opened brightly and Marley Watkins was denied by a smart save from Stuart Nelson after he fired in an effort from a tight angle.
Gills’ defender John Egan then deflected a goal-bound Adam Hammill strike just wide.
The Reds fell behind in frustrating fashion after 25 minutes.
A poor misplaced pass from right-back James Bree only found Dominic Samuel, with the Gills’ on-loan front-man seizing his chance by charging towards goal and slotting impressively past Adam Davies.
The Reds rallied, though, and almost levelled a couple of times before the interval.
Josh Brownhill fired a free-kick effort into the wall, while Watkins’ chipped strike was saved by Nelson.
Samuel almost doubled the Gills’ lead shortly after the restart.
The Reading man latched on to a smart pass from Bradley Dack, only to drag a shot wide from a great position.
Two goals inside a minute - one for either side - ultimately decided the outcome of the game just past the hour mark.
The Reds struck a leveller after 62 minutes, with Conor Hourihane smashing home a superb half-volley to register his ninth goal of another increasingly impressive season.
The 400 or so travelling army rejoiced wildly in the rain, but just as they will have started believing their team would now go and register an eighth straight league win for the first time since 1955, the Gills struck back almost immediately.
Again it was a defensive error which proved costly, with Davies spilling Rory Donnelly’s shot temptingly into the path of Dack, who made no mistake, mopping up from close range to clock his 15th goal of the campaign.
After that the Reds created the bulk of the chances and they went in search of a second equaliser, but it wouldn’t come.
Sub Ashley Fletcher dragged a shot wide, while a goal-bound header from the normally lethal Sam Winnall was blocked by Adam Chicksen. Hourihane also missed a decent chance late on, but it just wasn’t to be this time and the Reds slipped to 12th place in the table.
GILLINGHAM (4-3-1-2): Nelson 7; Osadebe 8 (McGlashan 86, 5), Egan 8, Ehmer 6, Garmston 5 (Chicksen 64, 6); A Morris 7, Wright 6, Loft 7; Dack 8; Samuel 8, Donnelly 6. Subs not used: G Morris, Hessenthaler, List, Williams, Norris.
GOALS: Samuel 25, Dack 63
BOOKED: Donnelly (45).
BARNSLEY (4-4-2): Davies 6; Bree 5, Long 7, Mawson 7, White 7; Isgrove 6 (Fletcher 61, 5), Brownhill 7 (SCowen 61, 6), Hourihane 8, Hammill 6; Winnall 7, Watkins 6 (Khan 85, 5). Subs not used: Townsend, Roberts, G Williams, Tuton.
goal: Hourihane 62
REFEREE: Darren Bond (Lancashire).