Barnsley U23s coach Paul Harsley believes his young side showed character in their 3-1 defeat against Bolton Wanderers on Monday evening.
The Professional Development League leaders went ahead through Jack Earing’s stunning strike three minutes before the interval, and doubled their advantage after the restart as Chinedu Obasi tapped in.
Amir Berkovits halved the deficit with a close range finish, but the hosts hit back immediately when the league’s top scorer Connor Hall headed home.
“I think, where we’re at at the minute, we need to take positives out of things,” said Harsley. "Just looking out there we had five under 18s starting and six finishing; there were a couple of first years playing. Compared to Bolton who had no apprentices in their squad, so I think it was always a tough task.
"They’ve put in a few experienced players, so we knew it was going to be a really tough test tonight. We’ve got to accept the scoreline for what it is and look past that to find positives for the young players, because they’re getting the experience.
“We set up to not press as high from the front and concede possession in the opponent’s third of the pitch, and then try and counter a bit. That would then give the players another experience that they should hopefully come across more in their career as they progress.
"With that you need a bit of luck at times; for things to go your way. They were doing fine and then he [Earing] smacked a shot right into the top corner that no goalkeeper in the world would have saved. But the lads never put their heads down and they kept working all the way through.”
The fixture was played at the Macron Stadium, which can hold almost 30,000 spectators.
Many of the young players will never have played at such a large venue, and Harsley believes the experience can only be beneficial in the long run.
“I think it’s good,” continued the U23s coach. "At under 23s you get all sorts of different scenarios developing; sometimes we may put a team out with five pros in from the first team and you’ll come across a team with under 18s in it. Other times games will be more even, other times it goes against you like tonight and all we can ask from the lads is to rise to the challenge.
"So, for instance, Harry Gagen is a first year apprentice. It’s brilliant for him coming into the squad, playing at a lovely stadium, a fantastic pitch and he’s got something there that he’s not used to every week. I was chatting to him after and he really enjoyed it, and that’s all we can ask really; for the lads to take something out of the game.”