Academy manager Henry Newman had as much reason as anyone to smile on Tuesday evening as a Barnet side containing three Under-18s gave a strong Peterborough United outfit a run for their money in the EFL Checkatrade Trophy.
The Posh ran out 2-1 winners with a late goal but the Bees, who had four Under-21s in the squad and three further Under-18s on the bench, more than held their own against EFL League One opposition.
“It’s the first stepping stone for those players,” Newman said. “We had Dwight Pascal start at right-back, Joe Payne came on very early and Ephron Mason-Clark got on for the second half.
“We had four other Academy graduates play in Justin Amaluzor, Wesley Fonguck, Nana Kyei and Fumnaya Shomotun which is very pleasing but it’s just the start – especially for those Under-21s, they’ve really got to kick on now.
“They are starting to get to the business end in terms of make-or-break and they have got to be pushing the first-team players to get into the manager’s plans.”
Right-back Dwight Pascal became Barnet’s youngest ever player at just 15 years and 250 days and you can read more of Henry and Martin Allen’s thoughts on him by clicking here.
However, Joe Payne and Ephron Mason-Clark also put in accomplished performances in a squad which featured 12 players under the age of 21.
“Joe Payne showed a great level of maturity as well,” said Newman. “It was his competitive first-team debut and he was excellent at left-back.
“He showed good maturity in terms of his positioning and use of the ball. There are one or two bits he can improve on which we will talk about.
“Ephron was outstanding for 45 minutes. He was very creative and threatening every time he went forward. When he and Justin came went forward we had our best spells of play.
“They were really aggressive, direct and skilful. Justin got the goal, Eph had one or two chances too and I really think Ephron has to set his sights on breaking into the manager’s plans and getting in that first-team squad.”
The Under-18s have enjoyed a good week in their own right, beating MK Dons 2-1 in the EFL Youth Alliance South East division on Saturday.
Goals from Rio Connell and Tobi Coker – a late free-kick – saw the Bees pick up their fourth league win of the season.
“The win over MK Dons at the weekend was very pleasing,” explained Newman. “We had a difficult night against Luton Town in the FA Youth Cup here at The Hive last week.
“We were very positive in possession of the football against MK Dons – as were they – and it was a tight game with both teams playing within a tight framework and with a philosophy.
“We have certain indicators in relation to the performance levels we expect from the players in terms of the types of passes and entries into certain areas of the pitch that we expect to see. We over achieved on nearly all of those targets which reaffirmed the positive performance.
“It was pleasing for the boys to put a marker down against MK Dons and it’s something we will look to build on in the coming weeks.”
Barnet travel to Northampton Town on Friday (kick-off 1.30pm).