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Last Friday’s defeat at Fulham saw the Clarets under-23 team miss out on the end of season play-offs on goal difference which will now mean a third season in Premier League 2 Division 2 since we became a Category 1 academy.

Just twenty years after Norwich pipped the first team to a play-off place, the same club have done it again at under-23 level and they will now play Wolves away in the semi-finals with Stoke hosting Nottingham Forest.

We started last Friday’s game knowing that a better result against any of Stoke, Forest or Norwich would see us climb into the top five and for much of the game we were in there. It was only when Fulham took the lead in the 73rd minute that we dropped out.

Fulham had already won the title weeks ago and they ended the season some fifteen points clear of Wolves. They were the only team to do the double over us and I thought, in a tight game, back in November, they were the best side I saw this season. They beat us 2-1 that night with Michael Mellon scoring our goal.

Providing there are no changes to the Category 1 clubs next season, we’ll be joined by Derby, who finished bottom of Division 1. Chelsea currently occupy the position above them but they will escape the drop should they beat Spurs in their final match. Should they win, Leeds will be relegated with Derby.

Although this is our second season at this level, it’s the first when we’ve been permitted to attend the games. It’s been a season of disappointment for some players due to injuries. We’ve seen Lewis Richardson and Rob Harker out for virtually the whole of the season while players such as Anthony Gomez Mancini, Michael Mellon, Sam Unwin, Max Thompson and Joe McGlynn have had their seasons totally disrupted.

It has given other players opportunities and while it seems unfair to single players out, there is no doubt that some of them have made big improvements during the season under coaches Michael Jackson and Andy Farrell.

With home games at Leyland, spectators are sat on the opposite side of the ground to the coaches, but at the recent game at Accrington it was the first time I’d been sat close to Jackson. I was impressed with the vocal but positive encouragement from both him and Farrell during the game. What a change to the often negative and abusive behaviour we used to witness on a regular basis from Steve Stone when he was under-23 coach.

To complete the round up, Sunderland moved off the bottom with a final win against Reading who have replaced them in bottom place while in Division 2, no surprise, the champions are Manchester City. They’ve ended the season six points clear of second place West Ham who themselves are seven points clear of Arsenal in third place.

Our under-23s haven’t finished. We have the final of the Lancashire Senior Cup tomorrow against Liverpool at Leyland and we are in the semi-finals of the Central League Cup. We are due to play Lincoln at home with Preston, winners against Carlisle two weeks ago in the other semi-final, awaiting the winners.

The two players featured this week are Mark Helm (top) who has captained the side recently and impressed in midfield, and Dara Costelloe (bottom), now the leading goalscorer.

The League Tables and our Fixtures and Results can be found within U23/U18 Stats on the top menu.

All last week’s results and this week’s fixtures are below along with, the league’s leading goalscorers, our goalscorers and the current league tables.

LAST WEEK’S RESULTS

Division 1

Friday 29th April
Arsenal 1 Leeds 1
Manchester City 7 Everton 0

Sunday 1st May
Blackburn 4 Chelsea 3
Liverpool 3 Manchester United 1

Monday 2nd May
Crystal Palace 3 Leicester 2
Tottenham 0 Brighton 0
West Ham 5 Derby 0

Division 2

Friday 29th April
Birmingham 0 Nottingham Forest 3
Fulham 5 Burnley 3
Norwich 0 Wolves 2
Stoke 2 West Brom 1

Sunday 1st May
Middlesbrough 2 Reading 1
Southampton 1 Sunderland 0

Monday 2nd May
Aston Villa 1 Newcastle 2

REMAINING FIXTURES

Division 1

Sunday 8th May
Chelsea v Tottenham

Monday 9th May
Crystal Palace v Derby

LEADING GOALSCORERS

Division 1

18: James Mcatee (Manchester City)
15: Jesurun Rak-Sakyi (Crystal Palace)
14: Folarin Balogun (Arsenal)
13: Armstrong Oko-Flex (West Ham), Jack Vale (Blackburn)
12: Dilan Markanday (Tottenham), Sonny Perkins (West Ham)
10: Scott Banks (Crystal Palace), Tawanda Maswanhise (Leicester)
9: Alfie Devine (Tottenham)

Division 2

15: Abu Kamara (Norwich)
13: Thomas Dickson-Peters (Norwich), Luke Harris (Fulham)
12: Kazeem Olaigbe (Southampton), Will Swan (Nottingham Forest)
11: Dylan Stephenson (Newcastle)
10: Will Harris (Sunderland)
9: Chem Campbell (Wolves), Flynn Clarke (Norwich), Sonny Hilton (Fulham), Douglas James-Taylor (Stoke), Julian Larsson (Nottingham Forest), Jon Rowe (Norwich)

BURNLEY’S GOALSCORERS (INCLUDING CUPS)

11: Dara Costelloe
10: Michael Mellon
9: Joe McGlynn, Max Thompson
5: Ne-Jai Tucker, Ben Woods
4: Sam Unwin
2: Jacob Bedeau, Owen Dodgson, Anthony Glennon
1: Finlay Armstrong, Ashley Barnes, Rob Harker, Richard Nartey, Lewis Richardson, Dan Sassi, Bobby Thomas
2: own goals

LEAGUE TABLES

Team pld w d l f a pts
Manchester City 26 16 6 4 65 32 54
West Ham 26 15 3 8 59 39 48
Arsenal 26 10 11 5 56 48 41
Liverpool 26 11 7 8 47 37 40
Manchester United 26 11 6 9 46 43 39
Tottenham 25 10 7 8 48 43 37
Leicester 26 10 7 9 38 53 37
Crystal Palace 25 11 3 11 51 49 36
Blackburn 26 9 8 9 50 56 35
Brighton 26 9 7 10 41 41 34
Everton 26 8 5 13 33 54 29
Leeds 26 7 6 13 44 49 27
Chelsea 25 6 7 12 37 46 25
Derby 25 4 3 18 30 55 15
Team pld w d l f a pts
Fulham 26 20 2 4 64 27 62
Wolves 26 14 5 7 46 37 47
Stoke 26 12 7 7 34 36 43
Nottingham Forest 26 12 6 8 52 31 42
Norwich 26 12 3 11 64 52 39
Burnley 26 11 6 9 46 39 39
Southampton 26 12 3 11 45 42 39
Newcastle 26 12 2 12 51 56 38
West Brom 26 10 5 11 44 54 35
Aston Villa 26 9 5 12 53 51 32
Birmingham 26 7 5 14 34 51 26
Middlesbrough 26 8 2 16 31 50 26
Sunderland 26 7 3 16 35 49 24
Reading 26 5 8 13 32 56 23
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