Following a tricky night for the U21s as they lost 3-1 to Ossett United, Tom Harban highlighted the importance of adapting to the physical demands of competing with men’s teams.
The young Reds fought and battled hard throughout the game against the much older and physically imposing side that faced them. Though Ossett may have won the match, the experience of playing 90 minutes against players nearly twice their senior will greatly help the team going into the new season.
“Quite a lot of them got 90 minutes in their legs, coming up to the season, two weeks out,” discussed Harban. “We had some decent passages of play – stuff we’ve been working on – but the end product is again nowhere near where we need it to be in terms of creating clear cut chances.
“A real positive is Hayden Pickard coming up from the under 18s and playing 90 minutes against a good, physical men’s team so it was a test for him, and he’s done well.”
Pickard scored Barnsley’s only goal of the game after finding himself in space in the box following some impressive passing play. The full-back took his chance emphatically and smashed the ball past the goalkeeper from an angle.
Despite the result, Harban focused on how important it was for the team to have the experience of playing against a physical and hungry side like Ossett.
“It’s brilliant [playing against older teams], it’s completely different from what the academy football is about,” he admitted. “These didn’t play any football; they were route one, direct, put it on our back three constantly.
“It was an ugly game to watch at times, but sometimes football’s that way; it doesn’t always go how you plan it to be. When it comes to digging in and grafting and getting stuck in a little bit more then that’s what they’ve got to do.”
Throughout the first half especially, our U21s struggled to match the tempo set by the experienced Ossett team. Harban made it clear where he believed the team fell short on the evening.
“This is real football,” he asserted. “We’ve come here, and Ossett were competitive and are set up to win games week in and week out. They came out the blocks with real intensity and we struggled to deal with it.
“Our lads are young lads, but they have to start growing up and realise that football starts from the first whistle.
“Teams aren’t going to just roll over and let them play their football. They’re going to make it uncomfortable, but we have to come through those spells better than we have done tonight.
“We’ve got two weeks left to get ready for our first game against Bristol City. The positive thing is a lot of them have got another 90 minutes under their belts. We’ll get there.”