Quote:Although any win over the old enemy is something to savour, the truth of the matter is that this was very much an under-par performance from Rovers’ youngsters. How much that was due to nerves on the night or the quality of the opposition is open to question. Undoubtedly, as Terry McPhillips admitted after the match, only Adam Henley had sampled the type of atmosphere that was generated by a crowd of 10,000 fiercely partisan fans.
Sadly, too many of the mainstays of the Rovers side had a difficult night. Jack O’Connell, recently capped by England at Under-18 level, ended a frustrating night by being shown a red card for a second bookable offence. Hugo Fernandez and John O’Sullivan, so often the lynchpins in midfield, were practically invisible for much of the game, while Curtis Haley struggled to make much impact up front.
On the plus side Osayamen Osawe again looked impressive with his direct running on both flanks, while Raheem Hanley was an industrious worker in midfield and came up with the only goal of the game.
As the Rovers struggled to impose themselves on Burnley, it again begged the question of just how much difference there is between Academy teams and the best of the rest. On the evidence of this performance, Burnley look to have assembled a decent set of lads who looked every bit as good as the teams that the Rovers play on a regular basis in the Academy League.
The Rovers, missing Robbie Cotton through illness, attacked the Darwen End in the first half and generally had the better of the play without creating too many clear-cut chances. The best moments all originated from the pace of Osawe, who continually switched wings and troubled the visiting defence with his pace and power. Ironically, the first real chance of the game fell to the Rovers winger, but sadly he completely missed his kick in front of goal.
However, another blistering run by Osawe on 24 minutes enabled him to pull the ball back for Haley, who inexplicably fired well over from a decent position.
Burnley, whilst neat and tidy in possession, seemed content to sit back and try to hit the Rovers on the break. Their first real opportunity came when Steven Hewitt, their playmaker in chief, sent in a long-range dipping effort which sailed over the bar.
The only goal of the game came on 33 minutes when Hanley rose to meet a perfect ball in from Osawe and his deft glancing header found the far corner of the net.
The visitors attempted to rally just before the break and it was during one of their raids that O’Connell found his way into the referee’s notebook.
The second half brought something of a transformation with Burnley looking the better side and the Rovers struggling to get any momentum with too many passes going astray. Burnley had a couple a decent chances that went narrowly wide, while the Rovers were reduced to hitting the long ball in search of Haley and Osawe. Indeed, Osawe, who had provided the main threat during the first half, struggled to get into the game as the Rovers seemed unable to find him with any accurate service.
The Rovers’ main threat came from the long throw-ins of Hanley and from set-pieces and it was from a Hanley throw that Haley’s headed attempt was deflected onto the bar before ‘keeper Josh Cook collected the follow-up effort from Ryan Edwards.
Hanley, who caught the eye with his non-stop running in midfield, was played in down the left with a super ball from Fernandez and duly delivered the perfect cross to the back post, but unfortunately Osawe could only head his effort into the ground and watch it bounce over the bar.
With twelve minutes remaining, the Rovers were reduced to ten men when O’Connell made a rash challenge in the centre of midfield and rightly received a second yellow card. His departure not only put the Rovers under pressure for the final stages of this game but his absence in the return leg at Burnley next week is going to be a major handicap; so much of the success this season has been built on the Edwards–O’Connell partnership in the centre of defence. Fernandez, who is no stranger to centre-back, dropped in alongside Edwards for the remainder of the match and although the visitors pressed with increased intensity, the Rovers held firm.
Whilst a 1-0 lead is welcome, there is no doubt that the Rovers will have to improve in all areas if they are to progress to the final. On the evidence of this game, one suspects that the Clarets will fancy their chances of causing an upset and reaching the final themselves.
Good stuff Dave, as usual.
Just one thing I'd take issue with, and I've seen it from several people, the Youth Cup match and the reference to Blackburn as 'hoofers'. But to claim our eleven footballers were simply kicked off the park by a team of bullying cloggers isn't exactly the whole story.