Jack Lester took charge of his first game as Nottingham Forest’s Under 18s stretched their fine unbeaten league run to ten games with a goalless draw against Barnsley on Saturday afternoon.The Reds were denied a goal in a game for the first time since October 18 as the Tykes stood firm and resisted a wave of Forest pressure throughout, while at the other end on-loan keeper Tim Erlandsson kept his third clean sheet in four matches.
Lester took the reigns following Kevin MacDonald’s departure to Aston Villa and made four changes to the side that thrashed Sheffield United 5-1 in their last league game, with Erlandsson, Alex Iacovitti, Ryan Yates and captain Adam Crookes coming into the side at The Nigel Doughty Academy.
It was the hosts that settled into the game quickly looking dangerous in possession, and confident wing play from Elvis Otim created the first chance but his superb whipped cross could only be diverted wide by Dylan Burns. Soon after, Andreas Karo headed just over from close range following a clever looped ball into the danger area by Yates.
And that sparked a flurry of opportunities for The Reds looking to get back to winning ways following their FA Youth Cup quarter-final 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, with Kasheme Walton next to go close after being played through by Luke Thomas but he saw his thundering shot saved.
That combination linked once again for their best chance of the half, with Walton getting threaded through on goal with only keeper Jack Walton to beat, but the in-form striker ballooned the ball over. Looking to make amends he was involved again, controlling the ball on his chest before sending a darted effort towards goal that Walton stopped.
The second period was much the same as the first as Forest looked a threat on the attack, with full-back Jermaine Worthington a particular worry with his marauding runs down the left flank.
Yates, who reverted from right-back to central midfield due to the absence of Matty Cash, was as energetic as usual alongside Crookes, offering the South Yorkshire outfit little time in possession and forcing the hosts up the pitch.
Walton had the ball in the net in the opening minutes of the second half as he searched for his ninth goal in 12 starts for the Under 18s. although the linesman adjudged him to be offside.
It was the visitors who had the next crucial chance of the half that they should’ve taken in a rare foray in Forest’s half. Forward Tomaz Rombrowski raced through on goal and struck an effort that looked destined for the bottom corner, but Erlandsson dived smartly to his right to palm strongly away.
Diminutive winger Liam Adams replaced Burns as Lester attempted to freshen things up and get beyond Barnsley’s stubborn defence. Walton grabbed a late winner against Huddersfield Town earlier in the month of February, however he and Thomas continued to be frustrated in front of goal with the half-chances that fell their way and it looked as if it wouldn’t be their day.
But the latter had a hand in a glorious opportunity for The Reds as the clocked ticked on, sending a lovely delivery into the box for Karo who volleyed it first time inches over the bar from eight yards.
Despite their endeavours Forest couldn’t get the goal they deserved but they still maintained their fantastic unbeaten league run that stretches back to November 1.
Lester’s men are next in action when they travel to the West Midlands to face Coventry City on Saturday, March 7 (11am kick-off).
Forest: Erlandsson, Karo, Nielsen, Iacovitti, Worthington, Otim, Crookes, Yates, Burns (Adams 67'), Thomas, Walton