They returned after three matches out because of a Covid-19 outbreak which saw their training ground closed until the day before the Championship visit of Watford
Many players were clearly struggling, as was assistant manager Barker, who was coughing through his post-match press conference after taking the side in the absence of the isolating Paul Warne.
It was no surprise they lost 4-1, but hugely creditable having gone 3-0 down inside 40 minutes to a side packed with former Premier League players. Michael Smith missed a penalty and Matty Crooks missed a great chance at 4-1.
“I genuinely feared for a couple of them,” commented Barker. “Before this I used to train every day and I can't think of anything worse right now.
“A good few who played have not been in good condition.
“From a player welfare point of view, to come back for one day and play in the Championship, there's probably an argument to say we shouldn't have played, however the bigger picture is we're running out of dates, were running out of time and opportunities for our games to be played. Unfortunately we just had to get the game over and done with.
“As a group we've tried to do the best we can.
“It wasn't an ideal scenario to come back after one day's training and play against an ex-Premier League team who I'm pretty sure will be there or thereabouts for promotion but the effort from the lads on the back of one day's training... we could have given them a bit of a scare. The goals were disappointing but there is a possibility we could have made it a really difficult last 15 minutes for them. Unfortunately it didn't go for us, a missed penalty and Crooksy's header, conceding the goal straight after our goal.
“I asked them at half-time to get something out of the game in the second half and we could have ended up winning the second half which doesn't give you any points but it might give you some momentum and confidence going forward.”
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