Following our U18s’ penalty shootout victory over Charlton Athletic in the Professional Development League play-off final at Oakwell, goalscorer Theo Chapman expressed his delight after ending such an impressive season with silverware.
Late on in the first half, the young Reds were awarded a spot-kick for a Charlton handball, with Chapman confidently stepping forward to fire beyond Ahmed Kone to break the deadlock.
Four minutes after the restart, Henry Rylah cancelled out the opener to take the tie to extra-time, where Oliver Hobden’s strike appeared to have put the visitors on their way to the title before Matty Doyle’s dramatic late leveller forced penalties.
Our U18s clinched the trophy after Rogan Ravenhill pulled off an impressive save in sudden death – a moment Chapman believes is the highlight of their season.
“To be honest, I was speechless,” he beamed. “It was an unbelievable moment, and I’m delighted that we got over the line. The lads have worked so hard all season. We’ve shown that we’re always capable of fighting until the very end, and today showed that.”
After their penalty shootout victory, the players celebrated with their families, where their joyous faces lit up the stadium in front of a good crowd at Oakwell.
“The celebrations after the game were overwhelming,” continued Chapman. “Seeing all of the fans cheering us on was amazing, and it was great to see all the players celebrating with their families after the game.”
Following the last gasp semi-final victory over Millwall a week prior, our young Reds were full of confidence heading into the showpiece finale.
However, the same could be said about their visitors, who registered an impressive 5-1 victory over Sheffield United in their tie, and Chapman admits that the threat the Addicks posed was tough to deal with at times.
“They’re a very good team,” he acknowledged. “They’re excellent on the ball and they always make themselves tough to play against. They make you work hard, but we’ve been working just as hard as them all season, so we didn’t fear them.”
Now the season is over, our U18s will have time to reflect on what has been a historic year for the academy.
It’s a chance to rest and recover before coming back ahead of the new campaign, where some of the youngsters will be aiming to retain their crown while others – like Chapman – will step into our U21s set-up.
“It has been tough at times,” he admitted. “Quite a few of us have picked up injuries which are never easy to get through, but we managed to. We’ve won the league for a reason. We’ve got an amazing squad who have been outstanding all season.
“I’ll set a myself a target for next season in pre-season, but the same messages from this season will apply. I hope to continue grabbing goals and assists. Those two things are a big part of my game, and I’m hungry for more of them.”