Date: 12th March 2012 at 12:41pm
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Burnley will play Blackburn Rovers this season after all albeit at youth level following the great news last week that the Clarets young guns had beaten their counterparts from Fulham, 3-1 at Craven Cottage to reach the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup for the first time since 1968.

The youth team have had a remarkable ride so far to reach the semi-final stage of the youth cup. A thumping 7-0 victory away to Boston in the third round set them on their way. They followed that up with 3-1 home victory over FA Academy status club, Ipswich Town before beating another FA Academy status club, West Brom 2-1 at the Hawthorns. Last week they completed their hat-trick of victories over clubs with FA Academy status knocking out Fulham. Not bad for a club who can only operate at Centre of Excellence level in light of the facilities and resources available at Turf Moor.

Youth team gaffer, Terry Pashley clearly delighted about the Fulham victory said:

“There are three Premier League clubs in there with big Academy status and big budgets and our boys are standing toe-to-toe with them at present.

“But it`s been a great run and long may it continue.

“We have another big hurdle in front of us but we will approach Blackburn in the same manner we have every other game”

The quarter-final victory ensures a two-leg clash against our local rivals in the semi-final. We will first play Blackburn at Ewood Park on Thursday 22nd March with the game kicking-off at 7pm that night. The second-leg will then be played at Turf Moor on Wednesday 28th March (also 7pm Kick-Off). The winners will face either Chelsea or Manchester United in the final which again will be a two-leg clash home and away.

We will provide details of the ticket arrangements once they are announced.

Let`s be clear though the victory over Premier League club, Fulham at youth level in the quarter final is some achievement. The Cottagers beat money-bags club, Manchester City to reach the quarter final stage so for the Clarets to come away with a 3-1 win at Craven Cottage is no mean feat. Fulham also included a number of professionals in their team including impressive young winger, Kerim Frei. He has played 16 times this season so far for Martin Jol`s first team. Former Stuttgart midfielder, Ronny Minkwitz was also in the Cottagers` line-up.

The last time we did so well in a youth competition was in a different era back in the 60s. In 1968 of course we defeated Coventry City in the two -leg final to lift the Youth Cup. We will bring you a ‘Blast from the Past` and review that game in a later article. Needless to say a number of those players went on to become regular first team players, some even legends so could history be about to repeat itself? Well I am sure the following players that lined-up to face Fulham youth last Wednesday night will be hoping so:

Cook, Williams, Errington, Coleman, Howieson, Gallagher, Hewitt, Evans, Gilchrist, McCartan

Subs: Jakolevs, Holt, Daly, Mullin (came on in 69th minute replacing Gilchrist), Nuttall (came on in 79th minute replacing McCartan)

We shall have to see how many of the above under 18s make the grade. Midfielder, Steven Hewitt (Vital Burnley`s sponsored youth player) of course is the only one of the team above who already has a professional deal and he led by example against Fulham.

It was stand-in captain, Alex Coleman though who led his team onto the field and he too deserves a lot of credit for this fantastic performance.

It looked like things were going against the Clarets following news that both key players Archie Love and Tom Anderson were unable to play due to illness. Pashley had to start therefore with five first-year players in the line-up so things were already looking a little ominous but we need not have feared even after going a goal behind with just 7 minutes on the clock. A 25 yard strike by Minkwitz did the damage but the Clarets did not let their heads drop and started to put Fulham under some pressure setting up some promising attacks of their own. Finally crucially just before half-time we got the equaliser we so richly deserved and it was the impressive, Howieson who had earlier brought out a save from Grant Smith who opened Burnley`s account. Howieson had earned a corner after his header had been deflected and taking the corner himself the ball flew directly into the net! A great time to score and it lifted everybody`s spirits!

The Clarets were now in determined mood and came out firing on all cylinders for the start of the second- half. Within a minute we got our noses in front with the New Zealand kid, Howieson celebrating a brace. A superb free kick from Steven Hewitt found the head of Howeison and the ball flew into the back of the net to put the Clarets 2-1 up.

Howieson was simply buzzing now and came close to completing his hat-trick after a shot from 22 yards out flew narrowly wide.

Within a few seconds after though, Burnley were in seventh heaven when they doubled their lead to make it 3-1 Clarets!

Jason Gilchrist put striker Shay McCartan free on a break. The young Irish lad sprinting forward then coolly clipped the ball over Grant Smith from a tight angle to score in the 56th minute.

The rest of the game was played out without any real danger of Fulham making a comeback and indeed the Clarets nearly made it 4-1 following a Lewis Nuttall header which was snapped up by the keeper. An excellent night then for the Burnley under 18s and what a season they are having!

They followed that up by yet another win in the Football League Youth Alliance at home to Port Vale on Saturday . The 1-0 win is the eleventh Alliance victory in a row and now means the Clarets are top of the League. They have 39 points now from 16 games, one point more than Preston who have also played a game more. There are now seven more league games of the season remaining so there is still a lot to do before the Clarets can be crowned youth champions. Things are looking good though!

There was some more news last week regarding our young guns but this was sad news as we will soon be saying goodbye to four players released by the club.

Dominic Knowles, David Lynch, Ross Wilson and Neil Yadolahi will be released at the end of the season. Dominic Knowles who came through Burnley’s youth system is perhaps the most surprising of the four. None of the players leaving at the end of the season had made a first-team appearance but Dominic Knowles looked the closest to breaking through. The 20-year-old forward had been two years as a professional at Turf Moor starting regularly for the Reserves. The closest he came to making an appearance for the first team was when he was named on the bench in our final Championship game of last season against Cardiff City at Turf Moor.

18 year old midfielder David Lynch was the Clarets’ young player of the year for the 2010/11 season and was rewarded with a 12-month professional contract last summer. He too was a regular in the Reserves before being sent out on loan to both Droylsden and Nantwich Town to gain some playing experience.

Another 18 year old, winger Ross Wilson is also a product of the Clarets’ youth set-up. He too has been as regular at reserve-team level this season as a first-year professional. It was announced today (Monday 12th) that he has now joined his local club Silsden on loan until the end of the season

Finally we will be saying goodbye to Neil Yadolahi The 18 year old joined the Clarets from Dublin-based St Kevin’s Boys in November, 2009 before signing a 12-month professional contract last summer. His career development though has not been helped by injuries this season and he will now need to look elsewhere in the summer after being released.

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