Two second half goals from Keegan Hartley and a trialist secured three points for our U18s against Wigan Athletic in the Professional Development League on Tuesday afternoon.
Barnsley largely controlled the game after a tight first half which saw centre-back Matty Doyle substituted with a knee injury, and after the break proved to be too much to handle for the Latics.
The young Reds got back to winning ways last time out away against Peterborough with a 2-1 victory at the Oakwell Training Ground last week.
Wigan, on the flip side, were looking for their first win in two, after losing against both the Posh and Sheffield Wednesday consecutively.
It took half an hour of play before either side registered a shot on target, and that came courtesy of Fabio Jalo who drove one low and hard towards Tom Watson in the Latics net from the edge of the area, but the ‘keeper gathered the ball well.
This sight on goal provided the Reds with some encouragement, with Hayden Pickard delivering from the left into the area which was just too high for Theo Chapman, whose header narrowly went over the top.
Just before the break, Doyle landed awkwardly, forcing the centre-half to be replaced by striker Lloyd Smith as Tom Harban reshuffled the pack with a tactical change.
HALF-TIME: Wigan Athletic 0-0 Barnsley
The Reds nearly made a perfect start to the second half, after another wicked delivery into the area from Pickard narrowly evaded the onrushing Ben Hall who was all-but certain to give Barnsley the lead yet for an important intervention from a Latics defender.
This move was almost replicated two minutes later with Pickard once again proving to be a dangerous outlet on the left, and his ball found Smith in the area, but his headed effort went over the bar.
The pressure began to pay however, as Barnsley took the lead in the 57th minute. The right-hand flank played creator on this occasion, after Hall swung in a ball that found Jalo in space at the back stick. His header hit the inside of the left post, and agonisingly rolled across the goal line, but Hartley was in the right place at the right him to prod home from close range.
That goal provided a foothold in the game for Harban’s side, and the Reds kept coming forward with a vengeance. Jalo jinked in and out of Wigan defenders on the left-hand side and drilled a venomous ball into the middle which somehow wasn’t connected with by a player in red.
On 70 minutes a lovely flowing move, almost involving every member of the team, nearly resulted in a second for Barnsley, but a recovering challenge from a Latics defender took the ball off of Hartley’s toe when clean through on goal.
Smith made the Reds look more organised as an attacking unit, and through his pressing was troublesome for the Wigan backline. His relentless work rate was nearly rewarded with a goal after he pinched the ball on halfway, but once again a last-ditch challenge was the only thing between Barnsley and a second goal.
It was Smith who won a free kick for the Reds in the left-hand channel after showing great strength to hold off two Latics defenders, leading to the forward being tripped. Another excellent delivery from the left flank by Hall found the trialist in the area, whose pinpoint header nestled in the very top-left corner and provided us with a two-goal cushion
Despite the increase in resolve from the home side, the Reds withstood any oncoming pressure for the remaining minutes of the game, controlling the affair until the final whistle.
It’s now back-to-back wins for Harban’s side in the Professional Development League, with our U18s only losing once in the previous seven in the competition.
FULL-TIME: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Barnsley
REDS XI: Flavell (GK), Hall, Pickard, Doyle (Smith), D Benson, Trialist, Nejman (c), Hickingbottom, Jalo (Dyer), Hartley, T Chapman (Makiessi).
Not used: Ravenhill, Anaman.