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Blake: We Are A Tough Nut To Crack

6 March 2014

Jason Blake insisted the heartbreak of previous Youth Cup defeats has made the current squad a tougher nut to crack.
 
The Clarets Development Squad ground out an extra time victory at giant-killing Exeter City on Monday to reach the semi-finals of the inaugural U21 Premier League Cup.
 
Seven players at St James’ Park were survivors from the FA Youth Cup semi-final defeat to Blackburn in 2012 and four from the loss at Manchester City a year later.
 
And Academy manager Blake feels the seeds of this week’s impressive victory were sown in those two losses.
 
He said: “At Exeter, we probably demonstrated a mentality that took us over the line.
 
“We can reflect back to the FA Youth Cup a few years ago, when we played Blackburn in the semi finals.
 
“Looking at the group now, we think how much they must have learned from that experience was probably a big contributory factor in getting through last night.
 
“We had a couple of young lads coming along the player development pathway, but others, like Tom Anderson, Al Coleman and Archie Love, will have gained so much from that experience from the previous games, like Blackburn and winning at Old Trafford.
 
“That’s definitely contributing to the mentality of the group. Coaches often talk about technical and tactical development, but on Monday we probably showed more of a psychological or mental development, which is really important.
 
“We always want to try and play the right way, but at the same time for these boys to go and break into the first team, they have to understand now to win games.”
 
The Clarets, now coached by Andy Farrell, needed an extra-time strike from Nathan Lowe to defeat the Grecians, who had defeated Blackburn Rovers, Crystal palace and Southampton en-route to the semi-finals, and who twice cancelled out Archie Love strikes in normal time.
 
And Blake paid tribute to the opposition who, like Burnley, are rated as a Category C Academy.
 
He added: “From our perspective, we felt Exeter were very strong opposition. All but one of their players have had League Two experience this season, so that tells you all about the experience they have been exposed to at a very competitive level.
 
“We found it difficult initially as they played a very direct style, with purposeful and accurate forward passing, which we found difficult to handle the intensity.
 
“We were continually being turned and that led to fatigue from our lads, which was an interesting challenge.
 
“It also meant we never got playing the way we like to.
 
“But it was another great opportunity to learn from the challenges that cup competition exposes the players to.”
 
Burnley’s reward for the win is a semi-final trip to Manchester City, with the date and venue yet to be confirmed.
 
Blake added: “We were very conscious not to focus on what might be if we won the game on Monday.
 
“We wanted to focus purely on Exeter , who had a great record in the competition.
 
“For that reason, we didn’t look any further than this tie, but obviously now we can look forward to a great tie in the next round.
 
“Of course, we’d all love to play at the Etihad because that would be a great occasion for everyone, especially the players and their families, so we’ll wait and see what comes of that.”
 

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