Tepid Barnsley FC start the season in worrying fashion against Luton Town

BARNSLEY'S two previous home openers against Fulham and Oxford United were occasions that few of a Reds persuasion will forget.

Barnsley FC's Callum Styles in action against Luton Town. Picture: Tony Johnson.

There were no supporters present at this latest league curtain-raiser and it was far removed in every way from those two vibrant, sun-lit days.

In truth, those unable to attend missed nothing apart from seeing a few old friends.

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After the positivity of high summer, here was the reality check on an afternoon when Barnsley lacked conviction and fluidity going forward and could have few complaints at a 1-0 reverse to Luton Town.

Luton had the better of it and the decisive moment arrived on 71 minutes when James Collins - fresh from a hat-trick on the previous Saturday and with an enviable record of three goals in his last two visits to Barnsley - atoned for a poor first-half miss in emphatic style.

Latching onto Pelly-Ruddock Mpanzu's header, the striker let rip with a fierce rising draw which positively whistled past Jack Walton.

It ended the Reds bid to equal a club record sixth successive clean sheet on home soil - something last achieved under Allan Clarke back in 1989.

This was comfortably one of the worst home displays under Gerhard Struber as the Reds started off life without Jacob Brown with a whimper.

It reinforced the need for Barnsley to add another option up top - with Struber keen on bringing in a targetman forward in the mould of Sandro Kulenovic.

On this evidence, something like him cannot come in fast enough.

Barnsley made just one change from the side who beat Nottingham Forest seven days earlier, with Elliot Simoes replacing Victor Adeboyejo - with new signing Michal Helik and Dominik Frieser among those on the bench.

It was a first half - indeed a game - when Barnsley struggled for fluidity and it was Luton who looked the more polished.

It should have yielded an opener on 18 minutes when Collins lacked composure in blasting over from point-blank range after being picked out by the lively Harry Cornick.

The hosts' other scare arrived just before half-time when ex-Reds midfielder Luke Berry - one of seven former Barnsley players in the Hatters' match-day squad - saw his screamer fly just over after the ball broke nicely for him.

At the other end, Barnsley failed to trouble Luton keeper Simon Sluga, with their best moment coming early when Cauley Woodrow - later booked after catching Sonny Bradley with an elbow - getting away down the right and seeing his angled low shot flash just wide after being picked out by a sweeping diagonal pass from Conor Chaplin.

Barnsley's other moment of quality saw Callum Styles pick out Alex Mowatt with a wonderful pass, with the Reds' skipper's dangerous low cross cleared.

Barnsley struggled to get Kilian Ludewig and Marcel Ritzmaier into the game offensively and Simoes underwhelmed in the number ten role.

The pattern of the first half continued on the restart with Struber acting early to bring on Dominik Frieser for the disappointing Simoes.

Romal Palmer was not long in coming either, but Barnsley's lack of offensive cohesion again continued in an increasingly sterile spectacle.

Barnsley did briefly start to hint at something more positive midway through the half, but failed to carve out chances to test Sluga, a relative bystander in the Luton goal.

It was at the other end where the tedium was broken by Collins, with Barnsley's best chance to level seeing Frieser head wide at the far post following Mowatt's cross.

Barnsley: Walton; Sollbauer, Andersen, J Williams; Ludewig, Mowatt, Styles, Ritzmaier (Palmer 58); Simoes (Frieser 52); Woodrow, Chaplin (Schmidt 78). Substitutes unused: Collins, Helik, Thomas, Adeboyejo.

Luton Town: Sluga; Cranie, Bradley, Pearson, Norrington-Davies; Rea, Berry, Mpanzu, Lee (Lua-Lua 62); Cornick (Bree 81), J Collins (Hylton 90). Substitutes unused: Shea, Tunnicliffe, Moncur, Clark.

Referee: Jarred Gillett (Australia).