Barnsley U23s fell to a 3-0 defeat away to Nottingham Forest in the Professional Developmet League on Monday evening.
Gboly Ariyibi’s first half strike was added to after the interval by Yassine En-Neyah and Virgil Gomis as the hosts ran out convincing winners at the Impact Arena.
However, the eventual score line was an unfair reflection of how the overall game panned out, with the Reds enjoying the best goal scoring opportunities throughout - only to be denied by a combination of fantastic goalkeeping and last-ditch defending.
The main positives for Barnsley was valuable game time for Zeki Fryers and Ryan Hedges, who are returning to fitness following injury. Jared Bird, Cameron McGeehan and Ben and Jordan Williams also completed 90 minutes for Martin Devaney’s side on a frustrating evening in Alfreton.
Barnsley had two opportunities to take the lead inside the opening ten minutes as they took the game to Forest. First, Hedges’ cross fell to the feet of Gerry McDonagh but the Reds’ striker saw his close range shot blocked. Then, Louis Walsh cut in from the left and fired a low drive across goal that was turned away by Liam Bossin.
From that chance, the hosts broke at pace and Brennan Johnson burst into the area and forced a fine save from Jake Greatorex, but the ball fell kindly for Ariyibi who had the simple task of tapping into the empty net.
It was harsh on Barnsley, who looked to hit back and came inches away from an equaliser as McGeehan stretched to get on the end of Jordan Williams’ low cross, but it narrowly evaded the toe of the Reds’ midfielder.
McGeehan was in the thick of the action once again moments later as Birds’ shot deflected into his path, but the 23-year-old couldn’t get the ball out of his feet in time and Forest cleared the danger.
Signs towards the end of the first half were positive for the visitors, but they were hit with a sucker punch just two minutes after the restart as En-Neyah converted neatly from inside the area after Barnsley failed to clear a corner.
McGeehan then forced Bossin into two fine saves from free-kicks, the first from long range that the Forest stopper plucked out of the top corner, and the second brilliantly clawed away down to his right.
However, the hosts put the game to bed with a beautiful, flowing move as they swept forward with precise one-touch passing before top scorer Virgil Gomis rounded off the attack with his seventh of the campaign.
Devaney’s side continued to press forward and almost reduced the arrears when Walsh’s low shot was tipped away by Bossin, before substitute Amir Berkovits curled one narrowly wide of the far post in the dying embers.
But, despite their best efforts, the visitors were unable to find a way through as Forest claimed all three points.
FOREST XI: Bossin, Richardson, Preston, Coveney, Ahmedhodzic, Stewart, Ariyibi (Megaritis, 86), Johnson (Taylor, 79), Gomis (Sodeinde, 86), Edser, En-Neyah
Not used: Wright, Panagou
REDS XI: Greatorex, J. Williams, Fielding, Trialist, Fryers (Wardle, 46), Hedges (Berkovits, 46), McGeehan, Bird, B.Williams, Walsh, McDonagh (Feeney, 73)
Not used: Trialist, Otim