Our young Reds were pegged back by Sheffield United U18s at the Oakwell Training Ground on Friday night.
Kynan Murchison’s headed opener in the second half was cancelled out by Sydie Peck’s late free-kick, meaning the spoils were shared under the floodlights.
In a game that was competitive and well battled by both sides, the early exchanges were very even. Young Reds midfielder Keegan Hartley raced through on goal after being played in, but his effort in the 13th minute was saved well by Callum Hiddlestone.
United responded with a big chance of their own after 18 minutes, with Antoine Hackford missing the whole target from close range after bearing down on goal.
The game continued in this pattern until the break, with neither side managing to convert their early chances.
HALF-TIME: Barnsley 0-0 Sheffield United
Tom Harban made a change to his side at half time as Fabio Jalo replaced Hayden Pickard.
It was the substitute Jalo who began to turn the screw for the young Reds, causing the United defence problems with his jinking runs and tricky feet.
The second half was very much a continuation of the first, with both teams battling hard all across the pitch to try and gain a foothold.
On 65 minutes, young Reds midfielder Charlie Hickingbottom rattled the crossbar with a powerful effort from 30-yards out, in what would have been a spectacular opener for Harban’s side.
In a further attempt to impact the game, Josiah Dyer was introduced to the game in the 67th minute to replace Hartley.
Dyer nearly made an instant impact, with Jalo once again doing well to create space to deliver the ball. A curling cross narrowly evaded Dyer in the box, in what would have been an all but certain goal for the young Reds.
The momentum was beginning to swing in Barnsley’s direction, and that elusive opener came for Harban’s side in the 72nd minute.
Jalo stood over a free-kick that was placed to the right of the area, and with an in swinging left footed cross found Murchison who stooped and headed in from close range.
That goal opened the game up, with the Blades looking to mount a response.
Josh Smith nearly equalised for United but a smart stop from the Reds’ ‘keeper prevented the visitors levelling almost straight after the opener.
The Reds began to get some joy on the counter-attack with the game opening up, and that man Jalo was once again involved. The ball broke in the centre of the park for Barnsley, and the ball found Jalo on the wing; he cut inside, but his effort whistled over the bar.
Not long after, with just 10 minutes to go, Ben Hall took aim from distance but saw his fine, curling effort crack off the far upright as the hosts looked to kill the game off.
Still searching for a reply, Derek Geary’s side came close, with a ball stood up to the back stick, but the Blades attacker failed to score thanks to good keeping and defending.
With five minutes to go, Peck fired a free-kick into the top corner to level the scores, leaving our Trialist goalkeeper no chance.
The game went up a notch after United’s equaliser, with both sides looking to take all three points in what had been an extremely competitive game.
Despite not being able to claim all three points, it’s five games unbeaten in all competitions now for the young Reds.
FULL-TIME: Barnsley 1-1 Sheffield United
Speaking to iFollow Barnsley after the final whistle, Harban was expecting a well fought affair coming into the game and was pleased with his side’s application: “It was competitive. Every game we play against these is really competitive, you know, local derby, last three years we’ve been up at the top end of the table, both of us.
“It’s not the prettiest of games, I think overall up to our goal we edged it on chances, final third entries, once the goal went in, we were expecting to be put under pressure, which we were. The free-kick, it’s an unbelievable strike from the lad, you can’t take it away from him, it’s just disappointing we got to the point where we’ve given the foul away in the first place.”
The coach was pleased with his side’s performance overall but felt maybe the young Reds should have taken all three points from the South Yorkshire derby: “On the balance of the game, I’m a little bit disappointed we haven’t held on to the lead.
“We had a couple of chances earlier on where we need to be more clinical, we spoke to the young lads about being more clinical in them areas, but we’ve scored a lot of goals this season.
“It’s a bit of catch 22, disappointed we conceded the goal in the end but, overall, it’s probably a fair result.”
You can watch Tom’s post-match interview on iFollow Barnsley.