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We went out of the Lancashire FA Youth Cup yesterday, beaten on penalties by Preston North End after the game, played at the UCLAN Sports Arena, had ended in a 0-0 draw.

I enjoy watching football, more so I enjoy watching Burnley and that includes the junior teams. I was brought up on watching the reserve team at the Turf and my interest in what potential we might have lurking below the first team squad has never wavered. Having said that, I do sometimes question my sanity, particularly after a day like yesterday.

1819 burnley edon pruti 00 500x500It was all nicely planned starting with the train taking us from Burnley Manchester Road to Preston, then a bus followed by a short walk to the university sports arena on Tom Benson Way. There wasn’t even a problem when the train was delayed by 15 minutes and then 30 minutes.

The problems started when the announcement at the station confirmed the train’s late arrival was due to a signalling issue and, because of that, would now only have time to reach Blackburn before about turning for its journey back.

I said I had no desire to be stuck in Blackburn so it was a case of a mad dash on foot to Burnley Barracks to get the train coming in from Colne, and it really was a mad dash. Breathless, the dash was made with seconds to spare and that train finally got us to Preston although, by now, far too late to get to the game by public transport in time for kick off which meant a taxi. Even then we only just about made it.

After all that, the match was as disappointing as any I’ve seen at youth level this season although there were some mitigating factors. The conditions were very poor due to the strong winds throughout the game which made playing football very difficult besides leaving the small number of spectators shaking with cold.

Michael Fowler, able to play under the terms of his loan, as was Ethan Kershaw, captained the side and came close with one early effort, but generally Preston looked much more likely than us and they will be wondering just how they didn’t get themselves in front during the first half. Some of that was down to missed chances, some to good defending and also they found goalkeeper Harry Allen in good form.

The second half was somewhat more even. We found their goalkeeper in good nick too; he made one outstanding stop to deny substitute Mitch George, but generally there was always the thought that Preston looked the more likely and they did crash one effort from distance against the post.

And they nearly won it in the dying seconds. With around 20 seconds of the game remaining, and the referee was adding on no stoppage time, Preston won a corner on the right. When it came over they scrambled the ball towards goal but the post came to our rescue once more and it was now all down to penalties.

We went first with Fowler stepping up. He scored as did all of George, Kai Smith, Cricky Conn-Clarke and Edon Pruti (pictured). But Preston netted all their five too so it went to sudden death. Terry Mupariwa scored for us and Preston responded, now 6-6, but the end came immediately afterwards. Bobby Thomas saw his effort saved before Preston scored again to win it 7-6.

The journey home, I have to say, was considerably better than the one there.

We lined up: Harry Allen, Udoka Chimna, Edon Pruti, Bobby Thomas, Matty Rain, Rhys Fenlon (Mitch George 70), Ethan Kershaw, Terry Mupariwa, Cricky Conn-Clarke, Kai Smith, Michael Fowler. Subs not used: Kai Calderbank-Park, Brennan, Joe McGlynn.

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