With our first team contingency heading to the capital this weekend to take on Millwall in the Sky Bet Championship, there is an opportunity to watch Tom Harban’s U18s as they welcome Cardiff City to the Oakwell Training Ground.
The young Reds, currently second in the Professional Development League, are aiming to secure a place in the end of season play-offs and can take a big step towards that goal with victory on Saturday.
Kick-off is at 2pm against the Bluebirds, and Harban is encouraging supporters to get behind his team.
“It’d be good to get people down to have a look at the lads in the under 18s group and get a feel for what they’re about,” he said.
“They’re doing well at the minute this season, so it’d be good to get a few fans down to get their eyes on what could potentially be the future of the club.
“It’s been a strange one. When we first came back after the pandemic, no one was there and, over time, parents have been allowed – two per player – so, it’s been quieter than what it previously has been at games.
“But we’re hopefully getting back to some sort of normality now where, if people aren’t travelling down to watch the first team on Saturday, they’re more than welcome to come to Oakwell and watch the lads pit their wits against Cardiff.”
Our youngsters head into this clash with the South Wales outfit on the back of a morale-boosting win over Southern champions Charlton Athletic last weekend.
Goals from Mylan Benjamin and Theo Chapman completed a second half comeback for Harban’s side as they maintained their slender advantage in the race for the top two.
It wasn’t just the victory, but the manner of the performance, and three similar displays between now and the end of the campaign should be enough to ensure a play-off berth – starting with Cardiff.
“It’ll be a big boost for the lads,” discussed Harban. “We’re going away to Italy on Monday for 10 days, so I think if the lads can pick up the win on Saturday, we’ll go into that trip really in high spirits.
“It’s a change of environment and will be a good trip – a serious trip, still, knowing that when they come back, they’ve still got a good shot of reaching the objectives they wanted to at the beginning of the season.”
The young Reds are top scorers in the Northern division, with 50 goals plundered in 20 games en route to their assault on the summit.
Harban was full of praise for his side and insists they know what they need to do in the run-in.
“We’ve just been pleased with the group as a whole this season,” he asserted. “They’ve done really well, been really positive day in, day out with their work and that’s kind of reflected in the games so far.
“But they know they’ve got three massive games coming up and they can’t take their foot off the pedal; they’ve put themselves in a position where it’s kind of in their hands if they want to get to the play-offs.
“So, they’ve got to go with the same mindset of the last two weeks, in particular. We need to turn up on Saturday wanting to win the game.”