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Jason Gilchrist was one of three young players released by the Clarets yesterday along with goalkeeper Danijel Nizic and Brandon Wilson.

The mere mention of Gilchrist always allows my mind to wander back to a Friday night in December 2012 when the youth team travelled to Old Trafford to face Manchester United in the FA Youth Cup. We’d reached the semi-final in the previous season, and had beaten Ipswich, West Brom and Fulham on the way, but this was a different prospect and certainly a tougher game than we’d faced against Boston in the same 3rd round a year earlier.

I went to Boston that night as the temperatures dropped way below zero and saw the Clarets record a 7-0 win. Gilchrist partnered Shay McCartan, the now Northern Ireland under-21 international who is playing for Accrington. McCartan was superb despite not getting his name on the scoresheet but Gilchrist certainly did; he scored a hat trick and there were further goals from Steven Hewitt, Cameron Howieson and Alex Mullin with an own goal thrown in.

Gilchrist and McCartan scored 23 goals each in the youth team that season and only a desperate fixture list which saw us playing four games in seven days in April cost us. We ended the season second in the league, one point behind Preston, and the same team beat us in the final of the Lancashire Youth Cup; all that and the FA Youth Cup run that saw our team play in front of over 20,000 in the two legged semi-final against Blackburn.

That Boston game was played on 6th December 2011 and on 7th December 2012 we faced this big tie against United at Old Trafford.

The team that night at Boston was Josh Cook, Aryn Williams, Alex Coleman, Tom Anderson, Luke Conlan,  Alex Mullin, Steven Hewitt, Archie Love, Cameron Howieson, Shay McCartan, Jason Gilchrist. Subs: Callum Jakovlevs, Jack Errington, Charlie Holt, Adam Evans, Lewis Nuttall.

Burnley celebrate the winner with Jason Gilchrist completing his hat trick
Burnley celebrate the winner with Jason Gilchrist completing his hat trick

It was very much changed a year later. Eight of those who started at Boston were now outside the age group which left only Conlan, Howieson and Gilchrist still playing in the team. I thought Conlan and Howieson were simply outstanding for us with Gilchrist, against the team he supports, having the night of his life.

We lined up: Callum Jakovlevs, Cameron Dummigan, Charlie Holt, Alex Whitmore, Luke Conlan, Luke Daly, Kevin Ly, Nathan Lowe, Cameron Howieson, Jamie Frost, Jason Gilchrist. Subs: Conor Mitchell, Andreas Bianga, Evan Galvin, Christian Hill, Brad Jackson.

And for completeness, the United team was: Pierluigi Gollini, Donald Love, Liam Grimshaw, Nicholas Ioannou, Louis Rowley, Jack Barmby, Ben Pearson, James Weir, James Wilson, Adnan Januzaj, Matts Daehli. Subs: Jonny Sutherland, Kenji Gorre, Declan Dally, Jack Rudge, Sam Byrne.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but, after an early push from the home side, we got hold of the game and the impressive Conlan won a free kick after a surging run down the left. Nathan Lowe took the kick for Howieson to head home at the Stretford End to head us in front. I reported at the time that it was the first goal I’d seen Burnley scored at the ground in almost 37 years; Ray Hankin had been that last scorer in a 2-1 First Division defeat in January 1975.

United levelled on half time and twice in the second half they took the lead. Both times we came back and both times it was Gilchrist who scored but when the final whistle blew it was 3-3 and we were into extra time.

Somehow our tired legs found the energy to keep going. Substitute Jackson, who replaced Ly just past the hour, got down the flank and his inch perfect cross was headed home by Gilchrist. It was a hat trick for Gilly and Burnley were back in the lead, a lead preserved by goalkeeper Jakovlevs with two magnificent saves as we moved into Fergie time.

The scenes were amazing at the final whistle. The healthy contingent of Clarets celebrated in the corner, chanting “Terry Pashley’s Claret & Blue Army” with the players joining in with them. Pash was ecstatic along with his right hand man Andy Farrell. “You don’t get much tougher than coming here, and at Old Trafford you are always going to be classed as an underdog,” he said after he and his players had finally left the pitch.

Always a master of the understatement added: “We have just caused a bit of an upset and whoever we get now, we can’t waste that result. It was a fantastic night and to a man they were fantastic. They showed so much composure, quality and a lot of grit and determination because towards the end there were a lot of tired bodies out there, there was cramp everywhere you looked.”

Pash added: “The composure we showed was the most pleasing thing. We came here and got the ball down and played and passed. I think we more than matched them in the first half and we knew at half time there would be a bit of a reaction from them. They started well and as the game goes on we went behind, but Jason does what he does and got another three.”

It was his fourth hat trick of the season in another prolific season but just over three years later he has left the club. Some players leave having made little impact, others leave you with a host of memories. Gilly certainly leaves those of us who were that night with a fantastic memory when we produced a massive youth cup shock.

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