Rovers finished with a patched up side, 10 men, and their play-off hopes in tatters after defeat at Barnsley.

With the core of their strongest XI ripped away through injury and unavailability ahead of kick-off, missed chances, two poor goals and a moment of petulance from Ben Brereton cost them dear on a night to forget at Oakwell.

Dominic Samuel missed two golden opportunities that Rovers were left to reflect on as Conor Chaplin scored just moments after coming on, while Brereton’s first act saw him red carded for a foul on Kilian Ludewig. Jacob Brown added insult to injury by racing clear to add a second.

The game petered out, and with six games to go, Rovers will hope their season doesn’t as well.  Hopes were high after the win over Bristol City in the first game back, but Rovers have contributed to their own downfall since in back-to-back 2-0 defeats at teams at the wrong end of the table in Wigan and Barnsley.

With three of the top six to come in their next three matches, they will need to raise their levels if they are to make a dent in the division’s leaders at Ewood on Saturday. 

Tony Mowbray promised there would be some surprises with his team selection, which included four changes, two of which were enforced as Darragh Lenihan and Lewis Travis were both unavailable, while Sam Gallagher and Ben Brereton were dropped to the bench.

Charlie Mulgrew came in for his first start since the opening day, with Adam Armstrong, Dominic Samuel and Bradley Johnson all earning recalls.  That meant for an experienced look to the side, an average age of over 27 unusual under Mowbray.

Barnsley, just like at Ewood in November, didn’t look a side bottom of the table in the early stages, their midfield movement proving difficult for Rovers to contain.

Top scorer Cauley Woodrow sounded two warnings inside the opening five minutes, the second seeing him sting the palms of Christian Walton with a strike from just outside the box.

Rovers were looking less than convincing at the back, Mulgrew caught under a right wing cross which was chested down for Romal Palmer who couldn’t keep his effort on target.

The hosts were much the sharper, and sliced their way through Rovers in the 17th minute as captain Alex Mowatt danced in to the box, and but for a fine block from Tosin Adarabioyo, he would have broken the deadlock.

At the other end it was slim pickings for Rovers, too eager to play forward earlier in a bid to exploit the spaces down the sides of the Barnsley defence.

Their best play came through Lewis Holtby, dropping deep in to midfield to create their first opening of the match for Armstrong who cut inside Michael Sollbauer after being freed by the German, but shot too closely to Jack Walton.

That was moments before the drinks break, one Rovers emerged from with a renewed vigour. Holtby was involved again shortly afterwards, sending a first time ball in to the path who this time opting to go outside his marker and shoot left-footed, Walton equal again, this time at his near post.

From the resulting corner, Rovers couldn’t have come much closer, Johnson volleying goalwards from a Downing corner which Walton kept out, with Armstrong somehow unable to turn home from inside six yards.

Downing then tested Reds ‘keeper Walton from distance as the visitors began to enjoy some joy with more measured approach play.

The chances were begin to stack up, but passed up at the same time, Samuel dancing his way past two challenges to break in to the box, going for goal rather than squaring for Holtby which looked the better option, particularly after scuffing his effort wide.

While Rovers were ending the half stronger, Rovers ‘keeper Walton was tested once more before the break, this time Mowatt taking aim from distance which he managed to get his body behind.

Goalless at the break, both sides, starting four points shy of their respective aims, needed to find something. For Rovers, the chances kept being squandered, Samuel guilty this time of firing over unmarked at the back post from Downing’s set play. His reaction told the story of how big a miss it was.

Barnsley sensed the need to change, making a triple substitution, two of which combined for the opening goal just moments after their introduction in the 58th minute. Conor Chaplin, the smallest man on the pitch, peeled off the shoulder of Adarabioyo to meet a right-wing delivery from Kilian Ludewig, and via the post, his header found the back of the net.

Mowbray turned to his bench at the second drinks break, making four changes and switching to a back three in a bid to save the game.

He would have been looking for his subs to have an impact, but not in the way they did, Ben Brereton sent off for swinging his leg at Ludewig as the defender went to clear.

And Brown raced clear from halfway to add a second, just as Rovers tried to adapt to their man disadvantage, and put the game beyond them.