Our U18s secured their place in the Professional Development League play-off final with a dramatic 1-0 victory over Millwall at Oakwell on Saturday afternoon.
Emmaisa Nzondo’s last gasp strike sparked scenes of pure jubilation for the young Reds, who set up a showpiece finale against Charlton Athletic next weekend.
It was no less than Nicky Eaden’s side deserved having dominated the encounter for large spells, attacking with intent and remaining resolute at the back.
After a cagey opening, the first chance of the game went to our U18s as they impressively played the ball to the right wing, before Fabio Jalo was caught with a heavy challenge. Hayden Pickard stood over the resulting free-kick and picked out our trialist in the box, but his headed effort sailed just wide of the mark.
Midway through the half, Millwall spurned a decent opportunity of their own, ballooning a header over the bar after neat, intricate build-up play.
The Lions seemed certain to break the deadlock just before the break in a chaotic goalmouth scramble following a corner. First our trialist flung himself in front of a shot before the resulting rebound was matched by a fine save from Rogan Ravenhill, who pushed the ball to safety.
HALF-TIME: Barnsley 0-0 Millwall
The visitors came out of the gates with intent to score, and they almost grabbed a goal straight after the restart, but Ravenhill was equal to the low attempt as it threatened to squirm in at the far post.
Shortly after, Barnsley began to dominate proceedings, constantly pressurising the Millwall backline with dangerous attacking play as both Pickard and Theo Chapman saw deflected efforts whistle past the upright.
Eaden looked to his bench as he brought on Vimal Yoganathan and Nzondo in place of Matty Doyle and Josiah Dyer in a bid to inject more energy into the final third.
As the clock hit 90 minutes, our tenacious U18s found the winner. A clever quick throw in from Jonathan Bland found Jalo in the area, who just managed to get a touch on the ball to send it into the six-yard box. The onrushing Nzondo was on hand to emphatically sweep home into the back of the net before wheeling away in jubilation.
Incredible scenes ensued as the entire team mobbed our late hero and celebrated making history once more by reaching the play-off final.
FULL-TIME: Barnsley 1-0 Millwall
REDS XI: Ravenhill (GK), McKay, Pickard, Doyle, Trialist, Murchison, Bland (C), Makiessi, Dyer, Chapman, Jalo.
SUBS: Carter-Rogers (GK), Nzondo, Monteiro, Farrell, Yoganathan.
Details of our U18s’ Professional Development League play-off final against Charlton Athletic will be announced in due course.