An improved second-half performance from Nottingham Forest’s Under 21s wasn’t enough to earn a point against a robust Barnsley side this afternoon.A penalty for the visitors after the break was all that split the two sides in a tight game that ended 1-0.
It was The Reds who made the early running but Barnsley showed the danger they would pose on the break when they created the first clear chance.
Left back Bailey Gooda played the ball into striker Rhys Oats who flicked it round the corner for winger John Cofie to chase. His ball was perfect for Dominic McHale, but a wonderful-point blank save from Forest keeper Jordan Smith kept the scores level.
Barnsley continued to stretch The Reds on the break but Forest had their first chance of the game through midfielder Jack Blake. Oliver Burke battled well down the right wing and his ball was cushioned back into the path of Blake by left winger Stephen McLaughlin, but his shot went just wide.
Barnsley, playing in their light blue away strip, seemed sharper than the home side and midway through the half Forest centre half Joe Worrall gave the ball straight to the visitor’s striker Oats. Oats tried to round Smith, only for the keeper to save very well. It was a big let off for Forest.
Having started like a typical away side, sitting deep and breaking when they could, Barnsley seemed to grow into the half as it progressed, and started to take control on the half hour. They spurned another fine chance when Forest captain Kieran Fenton was dispossessed bringing the ball out of defence, and Cofie’s resulting shot, after a fine ball from Oats, flew wide.
Young striker Tyler Walker, who before today had scored four goals in five starts for the Under 21s, had two half-chances before the break for The Reds. First he got onto Worrall’s long ball and tried to lift it over the onrushing Christian Dibble, but the Barnsley keeper was able to block on the edge of the area, before, with the last kick of the half, Walker hit a 25 yarder that was tipped just over the bar.
That was as good as it got for the home side, who had lined up in a 4-3-3 formation, as they had struggled to break down a well organised Barnsley back line in the first period.
And at the start of the second half the away team got the goal they arguably deserved. A pass was played into the dangerous Cofie on the right hand side of the area and Forest skipper Fenton was adjudged to have tripped the front man in the area. Cofie slotted the ball home coolly from 12 yards to give his side the lead.
The goal brought a reaction from Forest and, after collecting a through ball from Michael Hollingsworth, Walker drove into the box and went down under a challenge from Barnsley stopper Dibble. The Reds’ strong penalty appeals were waved away by the referee.
Soon after, Oliver Burke beat three men on the right and saw his shot from a narrow angle well saved, then McLoughlin’s header from Jack Blake’s corner slipped past the post.
Forest changed their shape to a 4-2-3-1 when Josh Rees was replaced by winger Aristote Kamaneno, McLaughlin coming off the wing to play in behind Walker, with Kamaneno and Burke going wide, and it seemed to help the home side.
Burke made the byline and crossed for McLaughlin but the Irishman, less than six yards out, just couldn’t get enough on the ball to equalise.
The game really began to open up late on, but this only served to help the visitors on the counter attack, who wasted a good chance when winger Eric Sousa blazed over when well placed.
The Reds continued to press though and, driven on by Blake in central midfield, they nearly pulled level. Substitute Kamaneno produced a sublime piece of skill on the byline to breeze past two defenders and cut back for McLaughlin who was arriving on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked.
The clock ticked on and in the second minute of added time a free kick for Forest, delivered by Blake, found its way to Burke at the back post, but he couldn’t react in time to convert the chance.
A minute later Walker was fouled right on the edge of the box and McLaughlin’s free kick, destined for the back of the net, was headed clear by a Barnsley defender as The Tykes held on to end their hosts’ campaign with a defeat.
Forest had grown into the game as the afternoon wore on and could have grabbed an equaliser, but they will neverthless be disappointed to have ended their season with a defeat.
Team: Smith, Whorms, Guthmy, Hollingsworth, Worrall, Fenton, Rees (Kamaneno), Blake, Walker, Burke, McLaughlin.