BARNSLEY’S young guns did the business at Oakwell on Saturday as the Reds ground out a well-deserved victory against ten-man Yeovil Town.
The hosts fielded no less than THREE loaned starlets who manager Danny Wilson thrust straight into action for their Football League debuts, and all shone.
Giant forward George Waring scored to set the Reds on their way to a vital three points, midfield enforcer Ben Pearson was the man-of-the-match, while Alex Kiwomya was full of life throughout and terrorised the overworked Yeovil defence.
On top of those three, home-grown teenagers Mason Holgate, George Smith and Paul Digby again impressed as they continued their steep learning curve in Sky Bet League One, leaving boss Wilson understandably delighted after presiding over a comfortable victory in the end.
The Reds probably did make hard work of it at times, with Waring and Conor Hourihane notching both goals in the second half after the Glovers had lost centre-back Ben Nugent to a senseless red card in the 25th minute, but Wilson was particularly pleased with his three new loanees.
He said: “We can’t all be too gushing too soon, but they all did very well.
“Don’t forget League One football is nothing at all like the under-21s competition they’re used to, but I thought all three coped very well because it is tough.
“Despite where they are in the table, Yeovil are always difficult to play against, but the three on debut all gave a great account of themselves.
“Hopefully this is just the start of long and successful playing careers for all of them.”
Although rock-bottom Yeovil were forced to play the majority of the game with a numerical disadvantage, Wilson didn’t feel that made a huge difference.
After his team moved up a place to 16th in the table, the Reds boss added: “I don’t think it made the task any easier when they went a man down really.
“We were still facing a stern test against a well-organised team.
“In the end I thought we managed the game well, we defended stoutly and were dangerous going forward.
“Ross (Turnbull) has hardly had a save to make when you look back at the whole game, and in the end this was an important win and we’ve picked up another three important points.”
There was interesting team news ahead of the game at a bright and breezy Oakwell.
In the aftermath of the FA Cup defeat at home against a very impressive Middlesbrough side, Wilson made four changes to his starting line-up.
The aforementioned trio of youngsters were thrown straight in for their debuts.
Pearson, from Manchester United, Kiwomya from Chelsea and Stoke front-man Waring were all given their chance, while many fans will have been happy to welcome back big Jean-Yves M’voto at the heart of the defence at the expense of Lewin Nyatanga.
Dale Jennings, Luke Berry and Kane Hemmings were the other players to miss out on a day when Wilson’s line-up definitely had a fresh look about it.
That certainly wasn’t the case for struggling Yeovil, whose boss Gary Johnson made two alterations to the side well beaten by Manchester United in the FA Cup six days earlier.
Such was the extent of their injury list, the visitors could only name five substitutes.
Despite their troubles, the visitors did offer a threat in what turned out to be a goalless first half, though once defender Nugent had gone off for lashing out at Waring midway through the period, Johnson’s men were always going to be right up against it.
AJ Leitch-Smith fluffed Yeovil’s best chance of the game after 20 minutes.
Going one-on-one against Turnbull, he beat the Reds’ ‘keeper, but somehow contrived to roll a weak shot wide of the gaping goal.
The game turned with that red card decision.
It was a crazy one from a Yeovil point of view, with defensive lynchpin Nugent striking out at young Waring in the middle of the field and providing referee Mr Bankes with an easy decision to make.
Almost immediately the Reds looked to profit, with Kiwomya - son of former Ipswich and Tottenham star Chris - and Digby going close to opening the scoring.
At the other end the Glovers reminded the Oakwell faithful of their threat when, on the stroke of half-time, James Berrett lashed in a strike which fizzed inches past the post.
The second half was pretty much one-way traffic as Yeovil finally appeared to wilt and an opening goal just five minutes after the restart proved crucial.
It was Waring who finally breached a resolute, reorganised Yeovil back-line.
Hourihane’s looping free-kick to the far post saw ‘keeper Jed Steer fumble the ball while under pressure from Holgate, leaving Waring to sweep up the loose ball as he hooked home a shot from six yards.
The shackles were off, and this youthful Reds team settled down into a solid rhythm, offering no further chances for Yeovil to hit back.
Subs George Williams and another debutant, Milan Lalkovic - two more excellent young prospects - both went close, before a penalty from Hourihane settled the outcome once and for all with 15 minutes remaining.
The Irish midfielder was himself upended by Steer as he sought to skip round the ‘keeper, with the referee pointing straight to the spot.
Hourihane coolly slotted home his 12th goal of an increasingly impressive campaign, and Barnsley celebrated a satisfying win ahead of this weekend’s big Yorkshire derby at Doncaster.
Barnsley (4-1-3-2): Turnbull 7; Holgate 7, M’voto 6, Ramage 5 (Williams 27, 7), Smith 7; Pearson 8; Digby 8, Hourihane 7, Kiwomya 6 (Jennings 77, 5); Lita 6 (Lalkovic 68, 7), Waring 8.
Subs not used: Davies, Brown, Berry, Phenix.
Yeovil (4-4-1-1): Steer 5; Twumasi 6, Nugent 4, Arthurworrey 6, N Smith 7; Leitch-Smith 4 (A Smith 27, 5), Edwards 6, Foley 5, Ralph 7; Berrett 5 (Hoskins 67, 5); Moore 6.
Subs not used: Krysiak, Hayter, Brooks.
Booked: Foley (28), Steer (74), Edwards (85).
Sent-off: Nugent (26).
Peter Bankes – the Merseyside ref definitely got the sending-off right, and probably got the penalty award right.
Danny Wilson said: “It was an important win for us. It’s important league points and we’ll look to push on from this result now.
“The young players passed a good physical test.”
Gary Johnson said: “This was a big game for us, and for Ben Nugent to get sent off in the manner he did was stupid and unprofessional.
“There were a lot of frustrating evident out there, and of course I’m very disappointed.”
Ben Pearson looked a class act as he sat comfortably in front of the back four.
The tenacious Manchester United midfielder has been compared to Paul Scholes - it was clear to see why.
Once young George Waring had broken the deadlock shortly after half-time, the sense of relief was clearly evident.
From that point, the Reds cruised to a welcome three points against resilient opposition.
At half-time, it was looking as though Barnsley were making hard work of seeing off 10-man, rock-bottom Yeovil, but they were always going to get there in the end.
This was an exceptionally young side Danny Wilson fielded, but once they had settled into a rhythm of play, they were too strong for a Yeovil side who are in desperate trouble.
Pearson, Waring, Kiwomya, Digby, Smith and Holgate were all a revelation for such young players - it’s just a pity not all of them are permanent Barnsley players.