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A season that has just come up short in the end in terms of getting into the top two in the league, ends tomorrow for our under-18s with a trip to Cardiff City in the U18 Professional Development League.

When we beat Sheffield United 5-1 just over three weeks ago, a top two finish looked more than likely, but only one win in four games since has seen any hopes of a play-off place end. It’s probably no surprise given the number of players who have left since then following the decision to release eight second year scholars and it’s left us very short of experience at this level.

1718 burnley michael fowler 00 500x500In those four recent games, we’ve drawn 2-2 at Crystal Palace having led 2-0 at half time, and a 2-0 lead in the home game against Birmingham didn’t win any points as our visitors won 6-2. We did beat Bristol City with a stoppage time goal last Saturday but then fell again to QPR, losing 4-3 having been 3-1 in front.

It led to coach Tony Philliskirk claiming they lacked leaders after the QPR defeat. He said: “I’ve probably spoken to the lads more after the game today than I have in any other game since I’ve been here because that’s the third time now we’ve been two goals ahead in a game and conceded. We’ve lost two of those games and only got a point in another one.

“I said to them that the problem, in my opinion, is the mentality. While things are going well it’s all okay and going forward we were very good. We scored three and could have scored more, but as soon as they concede a goal, it’s like panic sets in and then they’re all looking for each other. We do seem to go under a bit, which is a little bit worrying.”

He added: “We really lack leaders in the group. It’s something I have identified and said among the staff for a while, they are very much a group of individuals. The Burnley way is about team spirit and, going forward. We now need to put a programme in place where we do some things for the mentality of the players and work on team stuff. When the going gets tough, one or two of them seem to disappear and when there’s a little bit of adversity I’m looking for some leaders on the pitch and there aren’t many.”

The game against Cardiff last season was also away from home, our very first away game in this league. It ended in a 2-1 win for the Clarets with goals from Kian Yari and Michael Fowler. It’s Fowler who is pictured this week; he’s been our leading goalscorer this season with 18 goals and this despite him having spent time away on two loans and missing the run in having been released.

Tomorrow gives us an opportunity to beat last season’s points total of 49. We have equalled that this season having played less games than we played in 2017/18.

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