Martin Devaney encouraged Matty Wolfe to keep up his high level of performances following Barnsley U23s 2-0 victory over Bristol City at Oakwell on Friday afternoon.
The midfielder scored both goals in the young Reds’ penultimate game of the Professional Development League campaign – the first a calm finish after a probing run, the second a confident penalty.
“I think he needed that,” admitted Devaney. “That’s his sixth or seventh game and, if he’s being honest, he hasn’t quite been at it – but that’s to be expected when you’ve been out for a year. So this will give him the world of confidence.
“He’s got 90 minutes under his belt and he’s got two goals for his performance, which we know he can do. Last year he was a goal scoring midfielder and the way he took his first goal – driving through midfield and then to have the quality to find the net – is what he’s all about.
“It’s pleasing because he’s getting to where we need him to be and where the Gaffer needs him to be to be available for selection.”
That result saw the U23s make it 11 games unbeaten as they continue to end the season in fine form after an indifferent start.
Confidence is high within the camp and there is a sense of solidity in the defence and ruthlessness in attack, and Devaney is keen to highlight how big an achievement this year has been.
“You don’t get too carried away, but it’s pleasing because, over the years, I think it’s unheard of,” continued the U23s coach. “The run we’ve been on – one loss in 15 now – is unheard of with an U23s side.
“We’ve got the highest points tally of 38 and we’ve got one more game to go, and that’s a reflection on the lads. I also think it’s a credit to us as coaches and the environment we’ve created; trying to create better players, people and a winning culture.”
Another positive on a fine afternoon for Barnsley was the emergence of even more talent from within the Reds' academy.
Four of the back five that started against the Robins – including goalkeeper Henry Kendrick – are part of the U18s set-up, while two more youngsters were introduced from the bench in the second half.
“Our full-backs did really well – Harry Gagen and Will Calligan – and Rudi Pache at centre-back; three young boys who have done well with the U18s,” insisted Devaney. “You worry about them with it being such a big pitch and whether they’d crumble, but I thought their mentality, physicality – everything – was really good.
“The young boys who came on – Sam Nicholson and Aiden Marsh – in fact, all the players, did really well, so it was really pleasing.”