Cardiff City’s development side sealed their place in the end of season Play-Offs after a 3-1 win over Barnet at Underhill this week.
The league’s bottom side took the lead after five minutes when defender Robertson rose highest to meet a free kick from winger Coker, and the centre back's bullet header gave Elliot Parish no chance in the City goal. The home side saw out the first half, looking the more dangerous side as the away side struggled to build on their early pressure.
Kevin Cooper’s team came out for the second period in a determined fashion though and got a deserved equaliser after fifty nine minutes. Kadeem Harris played the ball through to Rhys Healey, who fired in his fifth goal of the season from ten yards out. The team of Healey and Harris combined again nine minutes later, this time it was Healey supplying a long throw for Harris to run onto and poke the ball into the back of the net from close range, a first goal of a campaign for the former Wycombe Wanderers winger.
The win was made secure with eight minutes remaining as top scorer Etien Velikonja made the most of a rare Barnet defensive lapse. The Slovenian controlled the ball inside the penalty area after some fine closing down work from Filip Kiss, before slotting past Barnes in a composed fashion to give City the three points.
With all twenty games completed for City’s development side this season, they currently sit top of the Professional Development League Two South table with forty two points, having at least secured a top two spot while the teams around them still have fixtures still to play.
The home side began the game with a recognisable name in their starting eleven. Recently voted League Two apprentice of the year George Sykes, lead a dangerous attack for the Bees alongside Jamal Lowe, while City’s development coach Kevin Cooper reintroduced Stephen McPhail into his starting eleven for the visit to Underhill as the away side searched for the three points needed to regain top spot and seal a play-off place.
It seemed as if everything was going to plan for Cooper’s side in the opening exchanges, and the former City midfielder will have wondered how they weren’t in front after just two minutes. In-form forward Rhys Healey was played through by Kadeem Harris after a clever free kick but the striker’s attempt was somehow kept out and pushed to safety by Barnet’s seventeen year old goalkeeper Dillon Barnes.
A fantastically worked free kick from the home side brought about the first goal after five minutes with centre back Robertson climbing above the City defence to head his side into the lead, Coker with the exquisitely taken set piece for Barnet. While City will have been disappointed with conceding a goal so early on, the Bees were showing clear attacking intent at Underhill and were good value for their lead.
GOAL! BARNET DVP 1-0 CARDIFF CITY DVP (A Robertson, 5 mins)
After a chance for Healey went begging for the away side, Barnet were unlucky not to go further ahead on eight minutes. City goalkeeper Elliott Parish was quickly closed down by the towering forward Sykes, the keeper’s clearance ricocheted off Sykes and luckily for Parish and Cardiff the ball went just wide of the post. The striker should have increased his sides lead with a further chance after sixteen minutes, with the entirety of Parish’s goal available to him; the second year scholar slipped the ball wide of the post.
An impressive run of games for Kadeem Harris within the development squad has seen the winger wipe away any worries about injuries from earlier in the campaign and after coming close in the last few games, he was again unlucky not to get his first goal of the season after twenty two minutes. After beating two Bees defenders on route to goal, Harris unleashed an unstoppable drive that looked destined for the top corner, only to drift just wide of Barnes left hand post.
Although City were striving forward looking for an equaliser, the Barnet midfield continually stood strong with former West Ham midfielder Vose pulling the strings for the Bees. Healey drifted a shot just wide of Barnes’ post on forty two minutes while a dangerous Filip Kiss free kick was deflected clear. It was a frustrating first half for Cooper’s side who have been playing incredible football of late.
Substitution Barnet: Jamie Charles replaces Ishmael Thomas – 45 mins.
HALF TIME: BARNET DVP 1-0 CARDIFF CITY DVP
With Cooper’s team talk behind them, City began the second period in determined style. Despite this, the first two chances of the half fell to the home side. Iffy Allen and Hackett for the Bees trying to extend their advantage but both were denied by Parish.
After these two opportunities though the tide turned in City’s favour with the skill and composure of the development side beginning to show. Healey will have felt he could have added to his recent goal-scoring form on fifty minutes when played through by Joe Ralls but the striker was denied by a fine save from Dillon Barnes.
The passing range of Ralls was continually troubling the hosts during the second half and Josh Yorwerth was unlucky not to equalise for Cardiff on two occasions, heading a Ralls corner wide from five yards before lashing a shot from another Ralls set piece over two minutes later. Although Barnet did everything they could to hold off the City attacks, their defence was finally breached on fifty nine minutes as Cooper’s development side the equaliser they deserved for a resurgent display after the break. Winger Harris received the ball on the left side of the Barnet penalty area and picked out Healey in space with the in-form forward showing no hesitation in powering the ball past Barnes from ten yards out to give City real hope of gaining the much needed three points.
GOAL! BARNET DVP 1-1 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Rhys Healey, 59 mins)
Substitution Barnet: Anthony Edgar replaces Jordan Brown (64 mins)
In an end-to-end ten minute spell following City’s goal, either side could have added to the score-sheet. Jamal Lowe tested the goalkeeping ability of Elliot Parish from just outside the penalty area but the former Aston Villa keeper was equal to the challenge while a quick Cardiff break involving Luke Coulson and Harris resulted in Healey heading wide under pressure.
The impressive combination work between Healey and Harris did pay dividends again for Cooper’s team on sixty eight minutes as City took the lead for the first time. An Aron Gunnarsson-esque long throw from Healey split the home defence in two and Harris was on hand to poke the ball past Barnes to not only give his side a crucial advantage but also score a deserved first goal of the campaign.
GOAL! BARNET DVP 1-2 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Kadeem Harris, 68 mins)
Substitution Cardiff City: Kane Owen replaces Declan John (72 mins)
The game should have been sealed on seventy three minutes, but an uncharacteristic miss from Etien Velikonja kept the advantage at just one goal. Healey disposed the Barnet keeper Barnes and fed his strike partner who slipped the ball wide of the post from five yards out with just a Bees defender on the goal-line to beat. The Slovenian International forward made up for this miss nine minutes later.
Substitution Barnet: Jordan Buck replaces Jamie Charles (78 mins)
It was a cameo appearance to forget for Bees defender Jordan Buck as Slovakian midfielder Filip Kiss stole the ball off him within his own penalty area, the ball bouncing to the feet of Velikonja who showed his clinical touch in front of goal in picking his spot and placing the ball in the bottom right corner of Barnes’ goal.
GOAL! BARNET DVP 1-3 CARDIFF CITY DVP (Etien Velikonja, 82 mins)
Velikonja could have had a fortuitous second goal of the game with three minutes left on the clock with Dillon Barnes showing a lack of concentration in the Barnet goal. The striker chased the ball down and Barnes clearance ricocheted off Velikonja and back towards goal, just as Parish’s clearance had in the first half. Both goalkeepers seemed to be lucky on the day though, just as Sykes was unlucky in the opening period, the ball hit Velikonja and went wide of the post.
Substitution Cardiff City: Theo Wharton replaces Rhys Healey (88 mins)
While the opening half belonged to the home side and their ever developing Academy, the second half and the three points returned to South Wales with Kevin Cooper and his side, sealing their place in the end of season play-offs in the process.
FULL TIME: BARNET DVP 1-3 CARDIFF CITY DVP
Richards (GK), Southam, O’Sullivan. Subs Not Used:Parish, Coulson, John (Owen, 72), Kiss, Oshilaja, Yorwerth, McPhail, Ralls, Healey (Wharton, 88), Velikonja, Harris.