ANALYSIS: Championship inexperience of Barnsley FC is exposed on a deeply worrying afternoon for the kindergarten Reds

IN THE coal mining town of Barnsley, digging deep was considered to be a way of life for many years.


For its football team, that quality was required in spades for the second successive season against a visiting Luton Town side, with responsibility thrust onto the shoulders of the kindergarten Reds in what head coach Daniel Stendel labelled as a 'big game' in his programme notes.

Last October, Barnsley, without the presence of senior players Adam Davies, Kenny Dougall and Kieffer Moore and six first-teamers in total, prevailed in front of the TV cameras in a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Hatters.

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This time around, the hosts had to handle the injury absence of Cauley Woodrow, a leader of the pack up front who was recently described as a 'talisman' by the Oakwell coaching staff. Lightning did not strike twice; quite the opposite.


It was left to the likes of Mallik Wilks and Mamadou Thiam to front up for the hosts on an afternoon when they fielded no established central striker against a visiting defence which included two former Barnsley players in James Bree and Matty Pearson.

Instead of digging deep, Barnsley simply disintegrated in a feeble, atrocious first-half which had to be seen to be believed from a defensive aspect and exposed their lack of experience at Championship level - with any vestiges of on-pitch leadership being conspicuous by their absence. It was a deeply worrying spectacle from a Reds perspective.

Unbeaten in the league on home soil in 525 days, that particular statistic was shredded remorselessly by a Luton side who outfought, outran and outwitted a desperately poor Reds side. Men against boys is the phrase you are looking for, more especially on the damning first-half evidence.

Ahead of the season, chairman Paul Conway spoke glowingly of the Reds enjoying their 'best transfer window ever' after bringing in a plethora of young talents rich with potential but wholly unproven at second-tier level - in a Championship which has a reputation for being unforgiving.

After Saturday's events, that statement was open to a fair bit of rebuke - just three weeks on from the hosts' effervescent opening-day display against Fulham.

Three goals arrived in a golden first half for the Hatters and it could have been several more, with Wilks, Thiam and Luke Thomas being virtual bystanders as the carnage unfolded at the other end.

The first indications of the Reds' desperate afternoon began on eighty seconds when ex-Reds captain Jacob Butterfield got things rolling by drilling home a rasping low drive past Sami Radlinger after good initial work by Luke Bolton and Harry Cornick before the outstanding Andrew Shinnie's shot was blocked.

It soon got worse five minutes in when Radlinger flapped terribly at a left-wing cross from Kazenga Lua-Lua, with James Collins bundling home after latching onto a cross-shot from another former Barnsley player in James Bree - with the home keeper stranded out of his goal.

Saves from Radlinger prevented Luton adding a third through Collins and another one-time Red in Matty Pearson, but a grim day assumed nightmare proportions, when Shinnie's free-kick wasn't cleared with the loose ball finding Harry Cornick, who confidently fired home low past Radlinger.

After a first half which it would not be doing a disservice to say was shambolic, the Reds' intent at least upped a notch on the restart, with Thiam heading off target early on in the second period before stinging the palms of under-worked Luton keeper Simon Sluga.

Playing three at the back, with Mads Andersen sacrificed at the interval, Barnsley lack themselves open to the Luton counter, but they had little option.

Collins had the ball in the Barnsley net, but an offside flag halted his celebrations before Thiam's shot was saved by the legs of Sluga as the Frenchman sought to restore a touch of pride for the Reds, with the game gone as a competitive entity.

To rub salt in the wounds for the hosts, centre-half Bambo Diaby hobbled off in the second period, with a 72nd-minute strike from the unmarked Wilks following Alex Mowatt's cross - his first goal for the club - representing a crumb of consolation with a small 'c'.

Barnsley: Radlinger; Sibbick, Diaby (Halme 67), Andersen (Green 45), Pinillos (B Williams 45); McGeehan, Mowatt; Bahre, Wilks, Thomas; Thiam. Substitutes unused: B Collins, Chaplin, Schmidt, Oduor.

Luton Town: Sluga; Bolton, Pearson, Bradley, Bree (Galloway 90); Butterfield; Shinnie, Tunnicliffe, Lua-Lua (Mpanza 81); Cornick (Lee 85), J Collins. Substitutes unused: Shea, Moncur, I Brown, Jones.

Referee: S Martin (Staffordshire).

Attendance: 13.250.