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27 January 2022

Our U23s were held to a 1-1 draw against Crewe Alexandra in the Professional Development League at Oakwell on Tuesday afternoon as Jack Sherlock’s first half strike was cancelled out by the visitors with ten minutes to go.

With U23s manager Martin Devaney on first-team duties at Nottingham Forest, our U18s boss Tom Harban stepped in to take charge of this fixture and gave his post-match assessment.

“I’m disappointed for them in terms of the result,” he began. “I thought they deserved more with the chances we created – clear cut chances as well. But the way they went about the game, the work ethic, performed the roles we’d asked them to perform, really pleased.”

Despite Harban not usually being in charge of our U23s, a lot of players involved against Alex came through the setup with his U18s side.

Danny Benson and Hayden Pickard started on Tuesday afternoon, while Blake Goucher, Ben Hall, Keegan Hartley and Lloyd Smith made up a youthful bench.

“I’ve worked with a lot of them lads anyway, previously when they were younger,” discussed Harban. “I’ve just been asked to do the game today, it’s nothing much different to what I’ve been used to but I all ask of the lads is that they give everything in the game and I think they have done.”

Joe Ackroyd, who made his debut for the Reds in our FA Cup third round fixture against Barrow, and a number of other players from our academy have made the bench in recent first-team fixtures.

Harban emphasised the importance of the young Reds showcasing their abilities in order to emulate the successes of their peers.

“They’re getting to that age, where they are in terms of their football, they need to be seeing that people are getting opportunities and it has to be an eye-opener for them to say opportunities are about if they want to go and take them,” he continued.

“I just said to the lads again before the game there’s going to be people here watching that need to be watching the game, just go out there and impress them, show them what you’ve got, show them what you’re capable of and I think in large spells of the game they showed how much ability they’ve got.”

When asked what our young Reds need to do to prove to their ability for a first-team call-up, Harban replied: “Perform to their best. Without the ball, the club wants to see a certain way of playing, I think they delivered that really well. The amount of times we managed to pinch the ball off of Crewe in high areas and create counter-attacking opportunities and I think that was everybody, from the back to the front throughout the game, doing that.

“Then on the ball they want to see people that can handle the football, make good decisions on the football and work with real quality and I think at times in the game we showed some real good quality in terms of the ball, maybe a little lapse of concentration for their goal in the end, a little bit of a mistake but I think if people were watching the game today they’d be quite impressed with what they’re seeing.”

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