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The under-23s beat Colchester United, bottom of the south group, 3-0 this afternoon at Gawthorpe in the last home game of the season in the Professional Development League.

The win drew us level with second place Birmingham but they have two games still to play against our one and they remain the firm favourites to reach the end of season play-offs. Even so, there was plenty to enjoy and admire from the performance this afternoon.

1819 burnley rob harker 01 500x500It might have been against one of the weaker sides in the league and one that included four trialists as they plan for next season. Having said that, our planning is underway and we included two under-16s in the side in Lewis Richardson and Ben Woods. Richardson has played previously but for Woods it was a first ever outing at this level and he had an excellent game in midfield.

We lined up with Nick Pope in goal but that was the only experience in our side. Two of the back four, Jordan Cropper and Bobby Thomas, have  been regulars in this team, Cropper for the whole season and Thomas more recently, although both are young enough to play in the youth team. We also brought on first year scholar Cricky Conn-Clarke who played most of the second half.

We dominated for much of the game and it was a surprise that it took us 26 minutes to go in front. By then both Rob Harker (pictured) and Dan Agyei had missed chances, both firing wide when through on goal, but it was Harker who gave us the lead, getting onto a header down from Thomas to score from close range.

That was it for the first half and we had to wait until just over twenty minutes from the end to double that lead with Harker getting his second and this time it was a really good goal. Agyei did really well to move forward with the ball and his pass into the path of Harker was superb and his strike partner slipped the ball comfortably past the Colchester keeper.

That looked to be it but there was just time for Woods to mark his debut with a goal two minutes from the end, having been set up by Harker, which delighted coach Steve Stone who said: “He played really well. Ben Woods stuck out like a sore thumb all game. I thought Christian (N’Guessan) did well and helped alongside him and they played well together.”

We’ve just got the away game at Charlton next Monday when a win would just put Birmingham under a bit of pressure. Stone said of our chances: “If we fall short, I’ll have to accept that this year. There have been a lot of positives. This is only the second year for the under-23s, so it’s brilliant.”

Today’s teams were;

Burnley: Nick Pope, Jordan Cropper (James Clarke 58), Bobby Thomas, Scott Wilson, Anthony Glennon, Christian N’Guessan, Mark Howarth (Cricky Conn-Clarke 48), Ben Woods, Dan Agyei, Rob Harker, Lewis Richardson (Tunde Bayode 72). Subs not used: Aidan Stone, Teddy Perkins.

Colchester: Callum Coulter, Luke Ige, Scott Armsworth, Tyrique Hyde, Aaron Barnes, Harvey Sayer, Callum Anderson (Dean Ager), Kwame Poku, Todd Miller, Ken Charles (Jake Hutchinson), Rhys Hilton. Subs not used: Chandler Hallett, David Agboola.

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