THE goal that nudged Barnsley closer to qualifying for the knockout stage of the Checkatrade Trophy had been a long time coming for Ryan Hedges.
In fact, it was 488 days to be exact, meaning the 23-year-old was understandably delighted to get on the scoresheet in Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw with Everton Under-21s.
Daniel Stendel’s side also prevailed in the penalty shoot-out that followed to leave the Reds needing just a point from next week’s final group game with Bradford City to go through.
Hedges was not called upon to take a spot-kick but he still had the satisfaction of netting for the first time since August last year.
“There were a lot of players who needed game-time,” he said after a night that saw Stendel make 10 changes from the side that had beaten Southend United. “Myself included in that. It was good to get a run out and the goal was nice, especially as I had been at Everton’s Academy and saw some familiar faces.
“I have had a frustrating time. As a footballer, you just want to play. I haven’t had as much game time as I have wanted. But, hopefully, I can now kick on from here.”
Injury meant Hedges’s first appearance of the campaign did not arrive until October. Coming on the back of making just one start from December onwards last season, his frustration is understandable.
It is why even starting at left-back on Tuesday came as a bonus to someone who normally patrols the flank further up the field.
“Being out injured and watching the lads start as they did was nice in terms of seeing us win games and do well,” added the Wales international. “But I want to contribute.
“Not my preferred position (against Everton) but I was just glad to be on the pitch. Left-back is something pretty new to me but I feel to be learning every day.
“Whether I play left-back or further up, I just want to influence the game. Which is something I did do by getting the goal.”
A point or even a one-goal defeat to Bradford will send Barnsley, the 2016 winners of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, through next week.
“No player would ever turn down a trip to Wembley,” said Hedges. “We are in the competition to win it, there is no doubt that.
“It is always nice to get minutes on the pitch but we want to go all the way. We want to win a trophy. That would be good for the club and the fans.”
I have had a frustrating time. As a footballer, you just want to play. I haven’t had as much game time as I have wanted. But, hopefully, I can now kick on from here.Barnsley’s Ryan Hedges