Tom Harban was thrilled with his side’s performance as Barnsley U18s progressed to the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup.
Two second half goals from Aiden Marsh were enough to secure a 2-1 victory over Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road in what was a tremendous display from the young Reds.
“I’m really pleased with both the performance and the result,” insisted Harban. “They put a lot of work into the game and I think, on the whole, we deserved the win based on the chances that we created compared to them. So, it was thoroughly deserved and I’m pleased with the performance.”
After a period of sustained pressure and several near misses, Barnsley eventually opened the scoring when Marsh’s shot from the edge of the box took a wicked deflection and spiralled over the stranded Andrew Walklate.
The young striker showed his predatory instincts late on as he sealed victory with a low drive that squirmed under the Alex stopper, and Harban believes it is just rewards for his team’s efforts over the course of the encounter.
“That’s why Aiden scores so many goals; he shoots when he’s got half a yard and you get deflections, but that’s what goalscorers do,” said the U18s coach.
“You need a little bit of luck at times, but you think back to the two chances we had in the first half where they get blocked after some really good play – so I think, overall, on the balance of play, we were worthy of it.”
There were magnificent performances all over the pitch as Barnsley picked up their first FA Youth Cup victory since 2012, with Archie Brown in particular catching the eye.
The fledgling goalkeeper was assured with his handling throughout the contest and made a sensational save down to his left to thwart Joe Robbins with the score at 1-0.
“He was excellent, faultless,” continued Harban. “His handling was impeccable, he dominated his area and his decision making with his distribution was really good. The first thing he said to me after the game was that he should have punched it [for the Crewe goal], which is fine – he held his hands up, and he was excellent all game.”
Harban also reserved special praise for diminutive midfielder Brad Binns, who was deployed in an unfamiliar role up front alongside Marsh.
The 18-year-old came close to doubling Barnsley’s lead moments after his strike partner had opened the scoring, but he saw his thunderous long-range drive turned onto the bar by Walklate.
“I don’t think he’s ever played there during his time in the academy, so we asked him to do a role that he’s unfamiliar with,” admitted Harban. “But he’s an intelligent footballer and the way he went about the game was excellent; his workrate and intelligence in terms of the positions he picks up caused Crewe quite a few problems, so that was really pleasing.”
Up next for the young Reds in this competition is a trip to either Sunderland or Birmingham City, who play their third round tie on Thursday 12 December.
The Stadium of Light or St Andrews await for Barnsley, and Harban says his side used that as their motivation heading into their clash with Crewe.
“It was a massive incentive; they’re two great stadiums to go and play in,” asserted the U18s coach. “We used this as an incentive for them before the game because it’s an opportunity for them to go and showcase their talent at one of the biggest stadiums in the country.”