Following our 1-1 draw with Leeds United on Monday afternoon, U23s coach Martin Devaney expressed his delight at our youngsters’ tireless work ethic against one of the divisions leading sides.
The Whites arrived in South Yorkshire with a wealth of first team experience in their line-up – including Macedonia international Ezjgan Alioski, who was nullified for much of the contest by the outstanding Jordan Helliwell.
Barnsley were magnificent throughout and perhaps unfortunate to only take a point from what was a difficult assignment.
“I’m really pleased; I think, in terms of the quality that we were playing against – them having five first team players – the players knew from the start that it was going to be tough,” said Devaney.
“Leeds are renowned for their running and outworking the opposition, so I challenged them to make sure that no team outworks us and the lads executed that really well. They showed great endeavour to play that way, press and they really frustrated Leeds.”
Performances in recent weeks haven’t quite been at the standard that the young Reds have set in the Professional Development League campaign, with positive results hard to come by.
And it had the potential to be a daunting afternoon for our U23s, particularly with United Head Coach Marcelo Bielsa watching from the stand as his more senior personnel looked to impress.
“Not in terms of quality on the ball, but in terms of work rate and the quality we were playing against, it’s one of the best performances of the season,” continued Devaney.
“For the players to achieve what they did – not to get the draw because I thought, after the first half performance, we should have maybe been one or two goals up. We restricted them to not even a shot on goal in the first half and it was a very good team performance, and it was a great result.”
Heads could easily have dropped following Bobbie Kamwa’s opener midway through the second half, but Barnsley rallied again and got their just rewards when Angus Chapman was toppled by Whites’ ‘keeper Elia Caprile inside the area.
Fledgling striker Aiden Marsh duly converted the resulting spot-kick as the young Reds showed the value of never giving in.
“We install that in them as a football club; no one outruns or outworks us,” insisted Devaney. “We never give up; that’s what a Barnsley team is – that’s our identity. We got the penalty, which we thoroughly deserved.”
Another positive for Barnsley was the return to competitive action for Jasper Moon, who came through the opening 45 minutes unscathed before being replaced by Harry Gagen at the break.
The young defender has been sidelined since suffering a broken leg against Wigan Athletic back in September, but Devaney is thrilled to have him back in the side once more.
“It’s great for him,” asserted the U23s coach. “It has been frustrating for him, but I thought he slotted in well in a three and, on the whole, he did well. It’s good to get that game time into his legs; it’s a plus for us and for the first team moving forward, and he’ll get another opportunity on Friday to impress.”
Up next in the Professional Development League is Bolton Wanderers on Friday 13 March at the Oakwell Training Ground.
Barnsley ran out 2-0 winners in the reverse fixture and another similar display could see the youngsters pick up their first victory since thumping Burnley 4-1 in January.
“After putting on a great performance like that [against Leeds], they have to do it again on Friday and still have that bit more quality in the final third,” said Devaney. “So, I’ll be encouraging that and working on it in training.
“There’s no game that you’re guaranteed to win, but we’ll be looking at it thinking it’ll be nice to get the three points that we maybe deserved against Leeds.”