Our U21s claimed a hard-fought 2-2 draw against Ipswich Town at Oakwell on Tuesday afternoon.
Tom Harban’s side picked up their first point of the Professional Development League campaign thanks to Hayden Pickard’s deserved late leveller, after Jack Butterfill had opened the scoring in the first half.
Early chances for the Reds came in the fourth and eighth minutes, with birthday boy Pickard involved in both. Great attacking play from our U21s saw Fabio Jalo’s shot blocked but only into the path of Pickard, whose effort was just deflected wide.
The left wing-back nearly opened the scoring again just minutes later as his free-kick from the right managed to evade everyone in the box. However, Ipswich’s goalkeeper was on hand to claw it away from the top corner.
The Reds took the lead shortly after with an outstanding display of attacking football. Quick passes down Barnsley’s left, with a fast one two between Joe Ackroyd and Pickard led to the latter drilling the ball across goal, where Butterfill was on hand to steer home from inside the six-yard box.
Ipswich nearly equalised soon after when Tamanda Chirewa’s free-kick from the edge of the box flew straight past the Barnsley wall and cannoned back off the foot of the post.
Despite the Reds’ best efforts, Town did eventually level the scoreline in the 37th minute. The ever-dangerous Chirewa found visiting skipper Fraser Alexander, who curled a fine effort into the far corner.
Soon after, the Tractor Boys grabbed their second. A low corner deceived the Barnsley defence and found its way into the box, where Ipswich attacker Zanda Siziba pounced on the loose ball and smashed it into the corner of the goal; a sucker punch for the young Reds.
Our U21s were fortunate to not go into the half two goals down. An excellent turn in the box from Chirewa left the striker in yards of space with time to pick his spot. Despite his good work in the build-up, the forward was denied yet again by the woodwork as his shot ricocheted off the left-hand post.
HALF TIME: Barnsley 1-2 Ipswich Town
Ipswich began the second half in a similar way to how the first ended. A defence splitting ball was run onto by Siziba, but the attacker’s effort from the edge of the box just whistled past the post, giving the Reds hope to make their way back into the game.
Our U21s didn’t let the game slip away from them, as opportunities for Danny Benson and Butterfill almost gave our youngsters the goal they were chasing. Benson – deployed in an unfamiliar right wing-back role – fired over the bar from 18-yards, while Butterfill hit a half-volley narrowly wide from a similar position as Harban’s side chased an equaliser.
Barnsley continued to dominate proceedings after getting over their slow start to the second half. Good work from Benson down the right led to the ball being played across the edge of the box which found its way to Harrison Nejman, but the midfielder’s attempt from distance was easily collected by Woody Williamson.
Brilliant play from the Reds led to an equaliser with 10 minutes remaining; Pickard finally got his birthday present in the shape of a goal to level the scores. From wing-back to wing-back, Benson’s beautiful switch was brought down by Pickard before he placed his shot into the bottom corner.
The Reds clung onto their lead with an inspired performance from our trialist keeper just after the restart which denied Siziba his second, blocking from close range before thwarting Chirewa with a flying save in the dying embers.
In the end, it was a deserved point for the young Reds against last season’s southern champions, and a morale boosting performance in front of a couple of hundred spectators at Oakwell.
FULL-TIME: Barnsley 2-2 Ipswich Town
REDS XI: Trialist (GK), D Benson, Pickard, Lancaster (C), Ariely, Moon, Ackroyd, Nejman, Butterfill, Hartley, Jalo.
Subs: Ravenhill (GK), Bland, Makiessi, Trialist, Dyer.