Jimmy Gilligan praised the resilience of his Nottingham Forest Under 21 side after they beat Barnsley 3-2 at Oakwell last night.The Reds, who were crowned champions of Professional Development League Two North on Monday after second-placed Huddersfield were beaten at Leeds, came from a goal down to take a 3-1 lead before surviving a late fightback by the Tykes and holding firm in the latter stages.
And although Gilligan acknowledged his team played below their usual standards, he says the effort and commitment earned the three points.
The Under 21s' manager said: “It was a hard-fought performance but certainly in terms of playing free-flowing football, I don’t think that happened tonight.
“We didn’t start the game very well which was disappointing for me because that’s something I can’t say about the lads over the past few months.
“Credit to them, they dug in and ended up getting the 3-2 win that we wanted. This group do show some resilience and that’s the nice thing about it, they’ve won their section of the league and now we go into the play-offs.”
Eight of Jack Lester’s Under 18s squad were involved in the victory in South Yorkshire and Gilligan believes that is encouraging going into the future.
“I think it’s fantastic, the academy is the lifeblood of a football club and with the way we are in the Financial Fair Play system, to have a solid group of young players coming through who have a desire to work keeps the club in good stead.
Winger Oliver Burke got on the scoresheet to continue a fine season for the youngster which has included appearances for the first team, and Gilligan commended his display.
He said: “He took his first goal brilliantly. To run from five or ten yards inside his own half, take the ball and pop it past the goalkeeper was fantastic.
“And for his cross, when he’s running off the pitch, to get his foot around the ball and put it in for Matty Cash to score at the near post was exciting as well.”
Click here to watch the full interview on Forest Player.