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2 May 2022

Our U18s have secured a place in the Professional Development League end of season play-offs.

Results elsewhere over the weekend meant that our youngsters, who weren’t in action, will finish in the top two.

Sheffield Wednesday were beaten 4-3 at home by Southern champions Charlton Athletic on Friday, while Coventry City lost 4-0 away at Northern champions Sheffield United the following afternoon.

It means the young Reds will have an opportunity to compete for the league title for the first time at this level.

“I’m over the moon, really,” beamed Tom Harban. “The lads have worked so hard this year; we’ve had our setbacks and we’ve had our ups and downs. I think there was a point a few weeks ago – the Hull City game – where we maybe thought we’d blown it a little bit, but they’ve shown massive character since then. 

“They went to Sheffield Wednesday and beat them, and I think that’s kickstarted them again to make a final push, and results have gone our way and they’ve managed to secure the play-offs.”

Our semi-final opponents will be Charlton, whom the young Reds came from behind to beat 2-1 at the start of April.

Harban insists that his side can match anyone when they put their minds to it, and he is hopeful of another positive performance when they face the Addicks later this month.

“I think, on our day, we can challenge anyone in the under 18s leagues – North and South,” he stated. “We’ve got good players, we’ve got hungry players and, don’t get me wrong, Charlton are a very good side – they won their league for a very good reason, at a canter.

“So, we’re going to have to be on top of our game, to go down there and put them under pressure and get a result out of it, but we’ll be going there to win the game and progress into the final, hopefully.”

Before we face Charlton, there is still one more fixture of the regulation season to be played as our U18s welcome Millwall to Oakwell on Saturday afternoon.

Harban has emphasised the importance of maintaining their fine run of form, which can provide a springboard heading into the play-offs.

“I’ve spoken all season about momentum and how important it is for the lads in terms of their football,” he stressed. “When they’re putting wins together, can they keep going and putting a decent run together? 

“We might have had a setback every now and again, but it’s massive, so next week is just as important as the Charlton game.

“The lads have to go into that game with a winning mentality to finish the season. We’ve won the last four on the spin, so they need to go out there and make it five.”

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