'We never got going' - Michael Duff identifies what went wrong for Barnsley against Exeter City
Jay Stansfield scored two poignant goals for Exeter – the first league goals of his career – as they handed the Tykes their first defeat since a 3-0 loss to Lincoln City in the Papa John’s Trophy at the end of August.
Stansfield is on loan at Exeter from Fulham and is the club’s first number nine since the death of his father, Adam, who previously wore the shirt.
In the build-up to the fixture, the Grecians lost manager Matt Taylor to Rotherham United but responded strongly to that set-back.
Stansfield kicked things off in the first minute, latching on to a cushioned header from Sam Nombe on the edge of the box and seeing his effort divert in off the post past Brad Collins.
Exeter – under the caretaker charge of Kevin Nicholson – doubled their lead three minutes after the break. Nombe broke into the box from the right and found Stansfield in plenty of space at the back post who tapped home in front of the 475 travelling fans.
Harry Smith should have added a third in the 87th minute. He found himself one-on-one with Collins and let fly, but his effort struck the side netting.
“We never got going; conceded from the first shot inside a minute and we never looked like getting back into the game,” reflected Duff, as his side remained in the League One play-off positions.
“We never got close to the levels we’re used to. We had no hunger, energy or quality. But we need to be careful not to over-react too much.
“If we’d have shown any sort of quality, we could’ve nicked a point. But we were miles off the standard that we’ve set.
“You can get beat, but it’s the manner of the defeat that’s the most disappointing thing today.”
Meanwhile, Duff confirmed midfielder Luke Thomas is expected to be sidelined for at least the next four months after breaking his leg in training.
The 23-year-old has one goal and one assist in 11 League One appearances this season but will not play again in 2022 after also damaging ligaments in his ankle.
Duff added: “He injured himself in training yesterday.
“There was no-one near him but he slid in, caught his legs underneath him with his studs in the ground and ended up breaking his leg and damaging a lot of ligaments in his ankle.
“He’ll have surgery on Tuesday and we’re looking at four months.”
Duff felt the injury to Thomas may have still been playing on his players’ minds as they took to the field against Exeter.
"It’s difficult when players see their mate on gas and air, screaming in agony,” he said.
"There is a weirdness in the training, players are not really listening because they’re worried about Luke.
"I can’t blame that on the performance but it might have been a contributing factor.”
Barnsley: Collins, Williams (Edwards 45), Cundy, Andersen, Kitching, Cadden (Larkeche 63), Kane (Martin 63), Benson (Connell 70), Aitchison, Norwood (Phillips 38), Cole. Unused substitutes: Walton, Tedic.
Exeter City: Blackman, Caprice, Sweeney, Hartridge, Key, Sparkes, Harper, Collins, Brown (Cox 90), Nombe (Chauke 90), Stansfield (Smith 70). Unused substitutes: Brown, King, James.
Referee: M Coy (Durham).