Martin Devaney heaped praise on how much Barnsley U23s have developed both technically and mentally over the course of this campaign following the 1-1 draw with Nottingham Forest on Friday afternoon.
The young Reds dug deep to claim a share of the spoils against a physical Forest side at the Oakwell Training Ground to maintain their run of fine form.
“It wasn’t a game for the purists, but I can’t complain in terms of the lads’ work rate and mentality – they showed great desire to work for the team as individuals by winning their battles,” said Devaney.
“I think three months ago, or certainly last season, that team would have lost that game. But they’ve shown a lot of heart, really put their bodies on the line and helped one another when things got tough.
“They’ve shown resilience, in terms of the performance, so I’m pleased because, as I’ve said, we would’ve lost that so it shows how far we’ve come and that we’re getting better and moving forward.”
Barnsley were the beneficiaries of an own goal following a goalmouth scramble before Victor Sodeinde fired home an equaliser ten minutes from time.
Both sides had opportunities to win the game late on, with Amir Berkovit’s blocked shot the most clear-cut chance right at the death as Barnsley settled for a point.
“I think it was a fair result,” admitted Devaney. “At 1-0, we had that opportunity where we broke and got down the line. Mateo crossed it for Jordan Williams, and if that goes in its game done. But they’ve got some really strong, athletic players and at 1-0 they had an opportunity.
“It was a goal kick and the lad competed with no one around him – it was the only time where one of their players went for a header and there was no one near him. Three or four second later, they’re down the left side and he’s hit it home. That just shows that the lads can’t switch off for one minute.”
The young Reds have now lost just once in their last nine Professional Development League games and have picked up 18 points in that time.
And Devaney sees no reason why his side can’t keep this run going over the coming weeks and continue to climb the table.
“As long as they keep working hard, we can keep going; it’s good that we’re getting results,” insisted the U23s coach. “What’s more important is that, as individuals, they’re taking on board what I’m trying to tell them on the training pitch and that they’re all improving. I feel, certainly, that the lads are improving and that comes with good results.”