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Burnley have moved into second place in the Youth Alliance with two Tommy Wood goals in the first eight minutes giving us a 2-0 win against Rochdale who remain in fourth place.

Michael Duff made two changes to the team that had beaten Port Vale last Saturday with the two central midfielders from that game. Miles Fenton and Kian Yari, on the bench. Mark Howarth, who has been out injured since January, returned to fill one of the slots while Kwasinkosi Mpofu came back in at left-back with Tyler Shrimpton partnering Howarth in the midfield.

Scott Wilson was outstanding in defence
Scott Wilson was outstanding in defence

We couldn’t have made a better start in what was always going to be a tough game against a very big, strong and physical Rochdale side and with less than 30 seconds gone we were in front. Dwight McNeil got the ball in from the left for Wood who turned to hit a shot into the corner of the net.

Rochdale weren’t happy. They had a player down injured and felt the game should have been stopped for him, but that was nothing like their tantrums when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after the goalkeeper brought down Wood who duly converted in the eighth minute to double our advantage.

I remain amazed that the keeper received no further punishment from the referee. I thought he should have had a yellow card for the foul and his dissent was long and sustained directly in front of the referee. When he finally accepted it had been given, he audibly taunted Wood prior to the kick and after all that he had to pick the ball out of his net again.

It’s just the sort of start you want when you are pushing towards the top of the league but this was never going to be an easy encounter and we certainly had a lot of defending to do at times. Rochdale came closest in the remainder of the first half with a powerful header which went just wide, but by the half time whistle we were fully deserving of our lead. The Rochdale coach didn’t agree and he spent most of the half time interval berating the referee.

In the second half, they really tried to put us under pressure at times but the best chances fell to us on the counter. Nashé Chakwana had the best of them while both McNeil and substitute Yari were so, so close.

Rochdale’s style meant a lot of high balls going into our box but goalkeeper Connor King, when called upon, handled the ball immaculately, but his work was lessened due to outstanding performances from Oliver Younger and Scott Wilson, our two central defenders.

But this was an excellent team performance against a very strong team in a game where the free kick count was way above what would normally be the case.

It’s taken us up to second in the league and now only Walsall have dropped less points than us this season. We’re at home again this Saturday against Fleetwood but we then follow that up with four away games before ending the season at home against Accrington on 6th May.

There is no doubt that watching the youth team is now a far more pleasurable experience than it was a year ago.

The team was: Connor King, Leighton Egan, Oliver Younger, Scott Wilson, Kwasinkosi Mpofu (Ali Koiki 59), Nashé Chakwana, Mark Howarth (Kian Yari ht), Tyler Shrimpton, Dwight McNeil, Tommy Wood (Jordan Cropper 83), Harry Limb (Miles Fenton 65). Sub not used: Marcel Wusiewicz.

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