Paul Harsley's Reds slip to first away defeat since August..
A second-half goal from the hosts at Thorp Arch was enough to settle a scrappy game that lacked any real quality or clear-cut chances.
Opportunities for either side were in short supply in bitterly freezing conditions. Both sides fielded a handful of first-team players with former Reds stopper Ross Turnbull in the Leeds goal, Toumani Diagouraga anchoring the Whites midfield and young starlet Romario Vieira came on as an early second-half substitute. For the Reds, Nick Townsend started in goal, Saidy Janko played wide right and there was a place for Cole Kpekawa at left-back.
It was an encouraging start to proceedings for the visiting Reds with two corners forced after good play between Janko and Callum Evans down the right, and on five minutes a Janko cross was met sweetly six yards out by the head of Omari Patrick who did well to rise above his marker but unfortunately the ball skimmed the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
Much of the first-half play was in the Leeds half of the pitch with Barnsley pressing them high and not allowing them to get their own game going but United did break clear on 10 minutes when Jack McKay turned Kpekawa and saw his fierce drive saved wonderfully by Townsend one-handed to his left.
That proved to be the highlight of the half in terms of chances, indeed it was the only time the home side managed to break through a spirited Reds midfield in which Jared Bird in particular was starring. By contrast the Reds had a host of corners which were defended well by Leeds and were continually threatening down both flanks with Kpekawa and James Carvell finding a fair amount of joy as we approached the break. But the search for that proper opportunity would have to go into the second-half.
HALF TIME: Leeds United U23s 0-0 Barnsley U23s
There were no changes during the interval but within minutes of the restart Leeds saw two separate players booked as they attempted to gain control of the midfield battleground.
Spanish centre-half Julio Rodriguez came galloping out of defence on 60 minutes, skipping past opponents and urged on the touchline to 'have a go' he did just that from around 25 yards out but his shot although firmly struck was straight down the throat of Turnbull in the Leeds goal.
The hosts then made a double change bringing on Vieira and Mattie Downing with both of them soon combining to devastating effect. It was the 68th minute of the game and Vieira slalomed his way into the Reds box before seeing a fierce shot saved brilliantly by Townsend but the ball fell kindly for the advancing Downing who tucked home a lovely finish on the half-volley with Reds defenders struggling to get back to help out the prone Townsend. 1-0.
Romal Palmer had replaced Carvell by now and Tom Rosenthal later replaced Patrick up front. But despite numerous moves looking increasingly threatening the final ball, touch or pass deserted the Reds this afternoon leaving Harsley frustrated watching on from the dugout.
Reds sub Palmer did jink his way into a shooting position after a swift regain, but as so often proved on the day, the shot wasn't ever going to trouble Turnbull. Palmer and Bird were still leading the side in terms of creativity but unlocking the United defence proved a task too far unfortunately with only a late Josh Kay cross just eluding the onrushing Rodriguez at the far post to show for a spirited final rally before full-time.
So a first away defeat since late August despite a performance that would probably have won other games. The young Reds will no doubt be hoping to find their shooting boots by the time Bolton Wanderers pitch up at Oakwell for Friday's next fixture in the Under 23s PDL.
FULL TIME: Leeds United U23s 1-0 Barnsley U23s
Townsend (GK); Evans, Proctor, Rodriguez, Kpekawa; Janko, Kay, Bird, Carvell (Palmer '62); Patrick (Rosenthal '75), Brown.
Unused: Greatorex (GK), Dolan, Wardle.