Our U18s remain top of the Professional Development League table after beating Coventry City 1-0 on Tuesday afternoon.
Despite facing waves of attacks from the hosts, an own goal late in the first half following fantastic work from Fabio Jalo secured three points for the young Reds at the Alan Higgs Sports Centre.
Both teams began the game with high octane energy, looking to catch their opponents on the break with balls over the top. The first 20 minutes of the encounter lacked any real chances, but made up for it with impressive battling from Barnsley as they aimed to dominate possession and pressure the hosts in the midfield areas.
Our young Reds’ first opportunity came midway through the half as Jalo burst down the right wing. Our Portuguese number 11 broke with pace, knocking the ball past the players in his way and eventually winning a free-kick after being hauled to the ground.
Jalo was the man to take it and though his ball in was dangerous, the Coventry keeper collected it before it could be headed goalward.
Following this, City looked to break up the pitch with speed and numbers. Some quick passing play down the right wing led to a cross into the box which a blue shirt made contact with. The looping headed effort flew towards the top corner, but fortuitously the crossbar denied the hosts an opener.
Coventry were denied again by the woodwork moments later. A defence splitting pass was played through, leaving the opposition number nine one-on-one with Rogan Ravenhill. His low effort sailed past our man between the sticks but cannoned off the bottom of the post and out of play, much to the relief of the Reds.
Soon after, the Sky Blues were denied yet again by the upright. This time they looked certain to score as a shot was fired towards the back of the net in a crowded box, however the woodwork was on hand to save our U18s for the third time, leaving Coventry frustrated with their lack of efficiency in front of goal.
The hosts were even more frustrated five minutes before half-time as our tenacious U18s found the opening goal despite being under the cosh. A powerful drive down the right from Alex Anaman granted the Reds a corner, which was quickly taken short and given to Jalo.
Our Portuguese starlet showed what he was capable of as he danced past three defenders in the box, before firing a cross into a crowded area. Coventry finally hit the back of the net in cruelly ironic fashion as the ball hit a defender and bounced past the goalkeeper, breaking the deadlock and putting the Reds in front.
HALF-TIME: Coventry City 0-1 Barnsley
Barnsley began the second half in a much calmer fashion as they settled into the game following the restart. However, City almost made their way back into the game on the hour mark. Despite our U18s holding onto the ball much more, Coventry broke through the visiting defence and slotted the ball into the back of the net. Fortunately, the linesman raised his flag, ruling out the goal and keeping the Reds ahead.
Soon after, Mylan Benjamin’s inspired run up the left wing almost doubled his team’s lead. A powerful drive into the box from our wing-back led to an effort rocketing towards the bottom corner, but the Sky Blues’ keeper was quick to deny Benjamin the goal he deserved.
Strong defending as a team from the Reds maintained their lead as we entered the final ten minutes. However, a chaotic corner kick caused carnage in the Barnsley box, resulting in a snatched shot flying towards the back of the net, but monumental defending from Benjamin denied the hosts as he cleared off the line.
Last ditch defending from Charlie Hickingbottom and Jonathan Bland kept the hosts at bay yet again as they looked to break into the box in the dying embers, while Ravenhill thwarted City with a last gasp save.
FULL-TIME: Coventry City 0-1 Barnsley
Reds XI: Ravenhilll (GK), Anaman, Benjamin, Bland, Hickingbottom, Pickard, Yoganathan, Makiessi, Dyer (C), Chapman, Jalo.
Subs: Carter-Rogers, Farrell, Kozluk, Monteiro, Trialist.