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'Hark' The Spark

Leeds too strong but teenage striker Rob Harker steps up

11 December 2018

Teenage striker Rob Harker seized his chance to make a mark for the Under-23s as the Clarets’ unbeaten run was emphatically ended by new league leaders Leeds United.

The Yorkshiremen ultimately had too much firepower for Steve Stone’s side and ran out 6-3 winners at the Barnfield Training Centre.

Ex-Clarets loanee Patrick Bamford scored a hat-trick, while there were also goals for the on-loan Chelsea pair of Lewis Baker and Izzy Brown.

At the other end of the experience scale, Harker was making his first start of the campaign at this level.

And the 18-year-old former Bury youngster responded by creating two goals and scoring one himself as the Clarets made it 3-3 before Leeds pulled clear late on to end Burnley’s unbeaten eight-game run.

“I asked him to go and be a handful up there and be difficult to play against and hold the ball up; all those sorts of things I’ve seen him do before at Bury,” said Stone.

“He did all those and there’s something to work off and work with there, which is always encouraging.

“He scored a goal and he made a difference and that’s all you can ask for. I’m pleased with him. He was the bright spark of the day.”

The Clarets could have gone top of the table themselves but saw those hopes ended by a first defeat since a Premier League Cup loss at Bournemouth in early October.

And Stone admitted the game had provided another learning curve for his young charges – who had kicked off their unbeaten run by coming from 2-0 down to draw at Elland Road.

“You look at what they’ve got on the pitch, it’s something for our lads to compete against,” added the Under-23s’ boss.

“We were a young side and there were a few lads in there who haven’t been playing much, so it was nice to see them out there in terms of can they handle it, can they deal with it?

“Also, can they handle coming back from losing a football match?

“They have been on such a good run, but it was also going to come to an end.

“It’s come to an end with a bit of a bump really, but there were some really good lessons in there; the fact that when it does go to 4-3 you don’t go chasing the game and coming out of the slots and the shape we’d worked on.

“You’ve got to keep your discipline. They didn’t do that today, but that’s something we can work on.

“There is still that mentality of Academy-type football and we have to get that out of them, so there are some really good things to work on.”

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