REVEALING himself to be heartily sick at late developments at the weekend, Paul Heckingbottom will be feeling just as rotten this morning.
After watching his Barnsley side be denied at the death by a cruel stoppage-time winner for Wolves on Saturday, the pain will have felt just as gut-wrenching last night – even if QPR’s leveller did not arrive quite so late.
On an evening when the Reds largely displayed conviction in their efforts to see out a game, they let the mask slip three minutes from time when Luke Freeman drifted inside before unleashing a stunning 25-yarder which flew past the under-worked Adam Davies.
Ahead of the game, head coach Heckingbottom had warned his side about the perils of switching off, with that bitter weekend moment at Molineux when Alfred N’Diaye scored a 94th-minute winner being at the forefront in his mind.
To be fair, the Reds could not do too much to prevent Freeman’s intervention, with his viciously swerving shot flying past Davies on an evening when two top-dollar goals illuminated a largely uninspired encounter.
Much earlier, a cracking 20th-minute curler from loanee Harry Barnes – who again displayed his penchant for the spectacular after his similarly eye-catching strike in the Reds’ 3-0 win over Sunderland late last month – had looked like making it another profitable Tuesday night at Oakwell.
King of the one-liners and wisecracks over the years, visiting manager Ian Holloway once famously provided a particularly amusing anecdote to describe an ugly win in his first spell at QPR as being ‘not the best.’
Barnsley were very much on course for that, but Freeman had other ideas with his goal prompting a brief flashpoint between both benches.
It was an evening when the stakes were high, with Barnsley – after three appointments against sides whose budgets are on a different planet to their’s in Wolves, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa – entitled to be mindful of winnable looking fixtures against Rangers and Millwall ahead of the international break.
It was an evening for industry and getting the job done, personified in the likes of Joe Williams, who again showed himself capable of helping to fill the void left by Josh Scowen, who made his first return to Oakwell last night.
The home defence also stayed tall, but were denied their clean sheet bonus after QPR – who suffered late woe at Oakwell last term when Scowen grabbed a late winner – claimed a spot of revenge.
QPR’S travel sickness in 2017 may have been a touch draining, but visits to Yorkshire have possessed some restorative qualities.
Without a win in their previous 11 Championship matches they may have been, they have come away with hard-fought draws at Hillsborough and Elland Road.
A pretty sterile opening was lit up courtesy of Barnes’s beautifully struck curler after Williams’s initial shot was blocked by Jake Bidwell.
It was a moment very much not in keeping with a low-key half, but Barnsley possessed the elements of fluidity, while the lack of alarms at the back would have clearly ticked a box for Heckingbottom.
The Reds’ other dangerous moments saw a header from Adam Jackson float just wide, while Jason McCarthy fired over when well placed, with QPR offering next to nothing at the other end.
With attacking options on the bench, the smart money was on Holloway changing things to liven up his side and he promptly did that with the introduction of Conor Washington.
Barnsley also made a switch with goalscorer Barnes making way for Tom Bradshaw, who provided support for Ike Ugbo, who grafted selflessly in the first half.
After a sullen first-half, the second period was rather more eventful by contrast with Bidwell and Jamie Mackie firing over before ex-Huddersfield keeper Alex Smithies blocked Ugbo’s fierce low shot after a Reds break.
A Scowen header soon flew wide before the scampering Smithies tipped over Hammill’s dipping effort in the nick of time after a typically audacious effort.
A momentarily switch-off from the Reds rearguard then let in Pawel Wszolek, but he fired over with the goal at his mercy.
Late pressure saw Smith go close before Freeman’s dramatic intervention.
Barnsley: Davies; McCarthy, Jackson, Lindsay, Fryers; Williams; Hammill, Potts (Hedges 80), Moncur (McGeehan 71), Barnes (Bradshaw 45); Ugbo. Substitutes unused: Townsend, Pearson, MacDonald, Thiam.
QPR: Smithies; Baptiste, Caulker (Smith 74), Robinson, Bidwell; Luongo, Scowen; Wszolek, Freeman, Osayi-Samuel (Washington 45); Mackie (Lualua 76). Substitutes unused: Lumley, Lynch, Manning, Wheeler.
Referee: G Eltringham (Tyne and Wear).