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20 May 2024



20 May 2024

Following our U18s’ Professional Development League play-off semi-final defeat at Charlton Athletic on Saturday, Nicky Eaden believes his players left everything on the pitch in what was a breathless encounter.

The young Reds fell to an agonising 5-3 loss in London but can be proud of what they have achieved over the course of the campaign, having finished in the top two for the third successive year.

“I said to them, you don’t want to get to the end of the season and just remember these last 90 minutes that you didn’t give it everything you’ve got,” stated Eaden. “If we come in at the end and we’ve been beaten by a better team, but you’ve given it your all, no problem.

“I’ve been beaten plenty of times in my career – it’s how you learn from it. As long as you can look and think we couldn’t have done much more and things didn’t quite go for us, then that’s fine.”

Goals from Fabio Jalo, Luke Alker and a trialist ensured Barnsley came from behind to level on three separate occasions against the Addicks, but our hosts’ superior finishing and efficiency in the final third proved too much to handle.

It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, though, from the young Reds, who created chances aplenty over the course of a pulsating contest but just lacked the Midas touch on occasion.

Luke Alker nets our second equaliser of the game

“That’s probably been the story of our season; we’ve arguably played better football than we did last season, but we haven’t been as clinical,” discussed Eaden.

“We’ve kept saying after games that we keep getting into good areas but don’t take our chances. I thought in the first half – I’m not saying we dominated, but I thought, if anything, we were the better team.

“I would have been happier if we’d got in at 2-2, but they’ve had three chances, maybe four, and we’ve had more and come in 3-2 down. You saw the quality of their finishes – two from distance, right in the corners, so that was probably the difference; that little bit more quality in the final third.”

Our U18s were, understandably, devastated at the full-time whistle having put so much in throughout what has been a positive and productive campaign.

They arrived in London hoping to progress to a second consecutive final and defend their national title, but it wasn’t to be this time around.

“Football has got a habit of kicking you right where it hurts and sometimes when you least expect it, but that’s how you become resilient by getting put through things like this, so you know for next time; it’s all experience,” reflected Eaden.

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