ANYONE watching Town for the first time this season must wonder what all the fuss has been about.
Encouraged by thumping wins against Hull City and Port Vale, over 12,500 Town fans in a season-best Galpharm crowd hoped for more of the same on Saturday.
They were desperately and sadly disappointed.
An abysmal first-half display - in which Peter Jackson's side were outplayed in midfield and overpowered in defence - cost them dearly.
Barnsley were only too eager to pounce, going ahead through Barry Conlon on nine minutes and exposing Town's shambolic defending further with a David Mirfin own goal 11 minutes later.
While Town improved as a 4-4-2 unit with Junior Mendes introduced on the right flank for the second half, they couldn't force the goal which would have made so much difference to the tenor of the game.
And frustration was complete in stoppage time at the end when team captain Efe Sodje - frustrated by Conlon's niggling all the way through was sent-off for elbowing Nicky Wroe.
By then, many Town fans had headed for home and it was the 2,228 Barnsley contingent in a gate of 14,794 who were making all the noise. Rightly so.
Their side took control thanks to the excellence of the returning Stephen McPhail, who directed operations to such effect that Town managed only two shots in the first half - Danny Schofield's deflected wide for a corner which Steve Yates fired straight at keeper Nick Colgan.
Chris Brandon and Andy Holdsworth did their best to stem the Red tide, but Town had no answer to Wroe on the right and Chris Shuker supporting the front two and it was all too easy for Paul Hart's previously hit-and-miss side.
Jackson had warned how Barnsley's slick passing might come to the fore given time and space, but it fell on deaf ears and, the more Town tried to chase better form, the more ragged and frustrated they became.
Sodje, normally so inspirational, was turned by Conlon for the first goal while Mirfin should have had a shout from keeper Ian Gray for the second. Only Gray's fine one-handed save from Wroe prevented things getting worse.
Mendes made a difference and went as close as anyone to scoring with a curling right-footer inches wide, but a couple of penalty appeals received no sympathy from awful referee Michael Ryan to add to Town's woe.
For all Town's effort, there wasn't a clear-cut chance to get back in the game despite Barnsley sitting on the lead, and Jackson's men will quickly need to put this dismal display behind them.
Two aimless passes in particular from Jon Worthington and Rob Edwards summed up Town's anguish. They have proved in previous weeks they are a lot better than this.
Next: Man of the Match >>>
Man of the match: ANDY HOLDSWORTH
HE did his best to get Town ticking in the first half and still did his bit in the second, after Town adopted a flat back four. Looks the part (even in a poor display) with his solid use of the ball
How they rated:
Ian Gray Communication breakdown for the second goal. Made a fine one-handed save to deny Nicky Wroe Rating: 4/10
Andy Holdsworth Town's best player on the day. Solid use of the ball and pressed forward well. Linked neatly with Mendes second half. Rating: 7/10
Rob Edwards Often spare in the first half and didn't know whether to attack or help out at the back. Below par set pieces. Rating: 4/10
Steve Yates Sacrificed at half time to allow a flat back four and Mendes into the action. Had Town's only shot on target Rating: 4/10
Efe Sodje Allowed Conlon to get free and score. Much better in the second half but red card completed a bad day at the office Rating: 4/10
David Mirfin Scored an own goal in a mix-up with Gray after Town went walkabout defensively once again. Better second half Rating: 4/10
Chris Brandon Tried to get Town ticking, but it was McPhail who called the midfield tune. Worked hard and kept going Rating: 6/10
Jon Worthington One pass straight out of play summed up the day for the whole team. Lots of graft, as usual, but not the dominance of late Rating: 4/10
Danny Schofield One bright first-half effort but never really in the game. Gave away possession for both goals. Later taken off Rating: 4/10
Andy Booth Had to battle for crumbs in the air as service to the frontmen was poor. Stuck at it, but no real clear-cut chances Rating: 5/10
Pawel Abbott Superb last week, he struggled to get into the game as Town's huff and puff led to just half chances on the day Rating: 5/10
Spotlight on the ref:
THOSE sitting near to the assessor said he hardly had a positive remark to make about Michael Ryan. Perhaps it was significant that Keith Hackett was in the directors' box as well. He goes to matches to run the rule over officials who might be considered not to be meeting the necessary standards.
He must be a very busy man on this season's evidence in Town matches and Mr Ryan, from Preston, did little to enhance his reputation in the general run of the game. Missed at least one potential penalty claim by Town and wasn't helped by either of his assistants with some poor offside decisions
SEVEN Premiership clubs had scouts at the game: Middlesbrough, Birmingham, Manchester City, Newcastle, Southampton, Liverpool and Bolton.
Barnsley: Colgan, Hassall, T Williams, Reid, Kay, R Williams, McPhail, Wroe, Shuker (Burns 90), Chopra, Conlon (Stallard 90). Subs not used: Scarsella, Bouldking, Nardiello.