BARNSLEY head coach Paul Heckingbottom is refusing to be downhearted despite his side passing up the chance of propelling themselves firmly into Championship play-off contention after a 2-0 home loss to leaders Brighton.
On an afternoon when victory would have moved the Reds to within one place of the play-offs, the Reds were undone by two well-taken second-half goals from Albion striker Sam Baldock as they failed to end an impressive week with another big result after taking four points from away games against Aston Villa and Reading.
The big Yorkshire winners in the county’s push for promotion were sixth-placed Sheffield Wednesday, who triumphed 2-1 at Nottingham Forest to draw level on points with Leeds United ahead of this weekend’s derby at Elland Road.
Garry Monk’s Leeds drew 1-1 at Ipswich Town to remain in fourth place.
Saturday also sees ninth-placed Barnsley in derby action at home to third-placed Huddersfield Town, with Heckingbottom admitting that his side were undone by two clinical moments from Brighton.
Heckingbottom said: “I was disappointed for the players, but not with them. In what we set out to do, we did most of it.
Brighton are a Premier League club in the waiting, but we said that if we accept that they have better players than us and deserve to beat us, there is no point playing them. We have to look at every game on how we can bridge the gap.Barnsley manager, Paul Heckingbottom
“Brighton are a Premier League club in the waiting, but we said that if we accept that they have better players than us and deserve to beat us, there is no point playing them. We have to look at every game on how we can bridge the gap.
“We have had three good performances, but it is about the points and the goals. The difference when you are playing the top teams is that they have the players who are clinical and they had a bit of magic on the right from (Anthony) Knockaert.”
Wednesday recorded a fourth successive league win for the first time since last April with a 2-1 success at the City Ground.
Kieren Westwood made a key penalty save to deny Ross McCormack and Almen Abdi and Fernando Forestieri scored fine goals as the Owls claimed their fifth straight victory over Forest.
Wednesday head coach Carlos Carvalhal said: “There were big moments in the game that were very important. One was when they missed the penalty and the other was when we scored a few minutes later.
“I have said in the past that a good goalkeeper is not one who has to make 20 saves in a game – because our opponents do not create many chances against us.
“A good goalkeeper is one who makes saves when he has to; when the team needs him to. Kieren is a fantastic goalkeeper and when the team needs him, he is there.”
Leeds chief Monk professed to being satisfied with his side’s point at Portman Road – on an afternoon when play-off chasing Norwich City failed to put pressure on the Whites and the Owls after losing at lowly Burton Albion.
Monk, whose side earned a point after Stuart Dallas cancelled out Freddie Sears’s opener, said: “We knew it was going to be a difficult game, so I think it was a good point.
“We didn’t react well to their goal and we probably equalised against the run of play. But both teams defended well in the second half and we concentrated until the end.”
It was also a big weekend in League One, with four of the top five meeting.
Leaders Sheffield United had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw in their top-two game with Scunthorpe United.
Blades chief Chris Wilder still believes his side will be “a tough team to stop” in the promotion race if they continue their recent form.
Despite the draw, watched by an impressive crowd of 27,980, the Blades are five points clear at the summit ahead of their home game with third-placed Bolton Wanderers on Saturday, with Wilder remaining bullish.
He said: “I wouldn’t want to be in any other training ground in the division, apart from ours. With the players we have got, with their character, attitude and ability, I wouldn’t swap our changing room for any other.
“We are in a great position with 13 games to go. If we play like we have done this last week, we are going to be a tough team to stop.”
Bradford City had to settle for an 11th home draw, but remain in fifth place after former manager Phil Parkinson’s Bolton Wanderers side hit back from 2-0 behind at the interval to make it 2-2.
City midfielder Nicky Law maintains that confidence remains high at Valley Parade where a 21,190 crowd witnessed a compelling spectacle.
Law said: “We feel if performances stay as they are, then riches can only be around the corner.
“There are 13 games to play, so we try not to get too down. We are confident we will get the amount of wins we need.”
Match reports: Pages 2 to 5