David Flitcroft’s Barnsley saw their Championship campaign open with defeat against FA Cup finalists Wigan today at Oakwell, writes Robert Gledhill.
After pulling off a last-day escape from Championship relegation, Flitcroft’s rejuvenated Barnsley got an immediate test of their credentials with the visit of Wigan Athletic, whose FA Cup triumph ultimately played a part in their loss of Premier League status.
Apart from Kelvin Etuhu (hamstring strain) and young prospect Paul Digby (thigh) Reds manager Flitcroft had a full compliment of players to choose from.
Lewin Nyatanga also missed out with an undisclosed late injury but fellow summer signing Jean-Yves Mvoto started in central defence.
Dale Jennings, another summer arrival following his release from Bayern Munich, was on the bench as Chris O’Grady partnered Chris Dagnall up front.
Leon Barnett started for Wigan along with fellow former Norwich player £2m Grant Holt.
Reds captain Luke Steele made the save of the half from Shaun Maloney but was beaten in the 37th minute by a 25-yarder from Ben Watson.
Holt deflected the ball home for the second from a 54th-minute corner after Scott Golbourne had cleared off the line for the flag kick.
Jennings came on in the 60th minute but was sent off five minutes later for a two-footed challenge.
Leon Barnett added to Barnsley woes with the third goal in the 80th minute following a corner.
Wigan made it 4-0 when Maloney tapped home in the 88th minute.
Flitcroft felt his team were outclassed as he endured an afternoon to forget.
“I thought Wigan were devastating,” Flitcroft said. “I thought up to the goal going in, we probably had our best spell. I thought we gave them some problems for 10 or 15 minutes of the first half, I really did.
“It was quite a competitive first half and we had a bit of possession, but once the first goal went in we struggled to come to terms with that.
“The second goal after half-time deflated the team and then when Dale (Jennings) was sent off then you’re chasing Wigan with 10 men, and it hurts at times watching your team having to endure that.
“I don’t think as a group they deserved that to happen to them, but it did and we’ll grow strong from it.
“We’ve been well-beaten today but there are still a lot of points to play for.
“I think Wigan have put a bit of a benchmark down today and I’ve told the players if you want to emulate that, then there’s a lot more work we’ve got to do together, and we’ll continue to do that.”