Our U18s shared 10 goals with Crewe Alexandra in a crazy 5-5 draw in the Professional Development League on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Lloyd Smith, Matty Doyle and Keegan Hartley, along with a brace for Charlie Hickingbottom saw the spoils shared in an eventful game.
Barnsley came into the encounter off the back of a resounding 5-0 victory away at league leaders Coventry City last week, while Crewe sat bottom of the pile after losing 3-0 at Wigan Athletic in their last outing.
The Reds had a dream start, with Smith netting after just 39 seconds. Fabio Jalo, on the right wing, danced inside and swung a venomous ball into the area. Some clever movement from Smith allowed the striker to use the momentum of the ball to guide it home.
However, Barnsley’s lead didn’t last long as the hosts drew level just eight minutes later. A driven effort from the edge of the area nestled into the bottom-right corner, leaving Reds ‘keeper David Aziaya with no chance.
Despite the early goals, the intensity of the game did not relent. Hayden Pickard hit a raking half-volley from 25-yards out, but the wing-back saw his attempt flash wide of the post.
Hickingbottom found Theo Chapman in the box through a lovely, dinked ball, but the midfielder’s header from close range sailed over the crossbar after 18 minutes.
An acrobatic stop from the Crewe goalkeeper was the only thing between Hartley and a goal in the 25th minute after the attacker pinched the ball deep in the hosts’ half and let fly from the edge of the area, but to be met by the fingertips of the ‘keeper.
The Reds did retake the lead just after the half hour mark. A short corner found Pickard on the left, and his ball found Doyle in the centre who had beaten the Railwaymen’s offside trap and side-footed home.
However, it what would become a pattern throughout the game, the hosts found themselves back level. On 42 minutes, great work from the Crewe forward allowed him to cut inside and fire home from close range.
But for a good save from Aziaya on the cusp of half time, Alex could have gone in ahead at the break after they found themselves in the area with space and time, but the Reds’ stopper made himself big and denied an all but certain goal.
HALF-TIME: Crewe Alexandra 2-2 Barnsley
Our young Reds began the second half in a similar vein to the first, scoring in the opening minutes. This time it was Hickingbottom who headed home from close range after a looping ball from Smith found the midfielder at the back stick.
But Crewe equalised shortly after. Their forward once again brought the ball down in the area and finished emphatically into the top corner to bring the scores level for remarkably the third time after 58 minutes.
Hartley came close just after the hour mark from a stabbed effort inside the six-yard-box, but the he was on the stretch and couldn’t generate enough power to trouble the goalkeeper.
The attacker, however, get his reward shortly after, needing no invitation to hammer a volley into the roof of the net after the ball broke loose in the area.
Barnsley looked to restore some equilibrium and control to the affair but had struggled throughout the encounter to do so.
In fact, the opposite occurred, and a dizzying, crazy final 10 minutes ensued.
We all know the script by now, and Crewe yet again pegged Barnsley back. Another cross into the Reds’ box, and another goal to make it 4-4 going into the final five minutes of the match.
Crewe then won a free-kick in a good crossing position in the 90th minute. The ball was swung in, reached the back post, and was directed back to where it came from in the bottom corner. Alex were leading for the first time in the match, and what a time it was to lead; in the final minute.
However, a game like this could not have a normal conclusion, and sure enough it did not.
The Reds had their hosts camped in their own half for the dying moments of the game, and the ball was recycled back out wide to Pickard on the left. He swung in another fantastic delivery which caused chaos amongst the Crewe backline and eventually it was bundled in at the back post by Hickingbottom for his second of the game to provide Tom Harban’s side with an equaliser in added time.
The referee brought a close to proceedings, calling time on a 10-goal thriller as our U18s dropped points for the first time since November.
FULL-TIME: Crewe Alexandra 5-5 Barnsley
REDS XI: Aziaya, Hall, Pickard, Doyle, Benson, Hickingbottom, T Chapman, Goucher, Smith, Hartley, Jalo.
Subs: Ravenhill, Joof, Lacey, Nejman, Dyer.