Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom said his team’s failure to profit from a good start cost them dearly against Reading at Oakwell on Saturday.
Garath McCleary and John Swift gave the Royals a 2-0 lead in the first half-hour but they had to see the game out with 10 men after McCleary’s dismissal.
Despite starting the better side, Barnsley fell victim to a sharp counter-attack engineered by McCleary and Swift. The latter was tripped in the box by Tykes keeper Adam Davies and the former saw his penalty saved but tucked away the rebound.
Shortly after, Swift found himself totally free in the middle of the park to advance, pick his spot and give his side a 2-0 lead.
Moments later McCleary, who had impressed up to then, saw red after shoving Conor Hourihane after he took issue with a foul on Danny Williams.
The Royals defended well throughout a feisty second half, and were well organised at the back even after conceding to Adam Armstrong just over 10 minutes from time.
“We suffered through not getting the first goal today,” said Heckingbottom.
“Credit has to go to Reading, who played well.
“It was a good open game with chances at both ends, but going down 2-0 in this league is always going to make things difficult.
“We were given a lifeline in the sending-off and we will always fight right to the end and I’m glad the fans stuck with us right to the end.
“There’s a brilliant bond between the players and the fans at the moment and the lads were given a great ovation at the end.
“We’re enjoying every minute of life in this league. Big managers, big players on the pitch, big crowds, it’s exactly what we want.
“We’ve got good players – good players who work their socks off – and we want to learn from today and get better and better with each game.”
Reading manager Jaap Stam was impressed with his side’s resilience.
“In the first half we played very well,” he said. “We had good possession, generated a number of chances and scored two good goals.
“We dominated with 11 men on the pitch, but obviously after Garath got sent off it was a totally different game. We decided to play a 4-4-1 system that allowed us to defend against Barnsley, who are a side with real quality.
“Sometimes maybe we got a bit lucky, but we worked very hard and didn’t give many clear-cut chances away. Of course, Garath knows what he’s done and does feel guilty because he was playing a fantastic game until then.”
Barnsley: Davies, Yiadom, Roberts, MacDonald, White (Kpekawa 17), Kent (Janko 68), Scowen, Hourihane, Hammill, Armstrong, Winnall (Bradshaw 68). Unused substitutes: Townsend, Watkins, Jackson, Morsy.
Reading: Al Habsi, Gunter, McShane, Moore, Blackett, Williams, Evans, McCleary, Swift (Obita 52),Beerens (Quinn 72), Kermorgant (Mendes 86). Unused substitutes: Harriott, Watson, Jaakkola, Kelly.
Referee: David Coote (Nottinghamshire).