Steve Stone gave youth its chance and was rewarded with a goal-scoring performance from debutant Ben Woods.
The midfielder scored the Clarets’ final goal in a 3-0 win over Colchester United which lifted Burnley level on points with second-placed Birmingham City in the U23 Professional Development League’s northern group.
Woods impressed in his first taste of football at this level as he and striker Lewis Richardson – both aged 16 – gave a further taste of things to come when they start two-year scholarships at Turf Moor next season.
Ben Woods celebrates his goal with two-goal scorer Rob Harker
“He played really well,” said Stone.
“We always talk about accelerated development and one way of getting these guys used to playing at professional football clubs and where they are going to have to try and get to, is to put them straight into the Under-23s and give them a go.
“These two are full-time next year, so it’s a six-week freebie for me where they come in and we both get a little feel for it and they kick on so hopefully hit the ground running next year. I was delighted with both of them today.
“Ricco has played a few games now and I asked him to play in a bit of a different position.
Lewis Richardson has progressed through the Academy ranks
“But the most important thing was to get them on the pitch and used to how the game is played at under-23 level.
“Ben Woods stuck out like a sore thumb all game. I thought Christian did well and helped alongside him and they played well together.
“I was pleased at Ben getting the goal. I was asking the midfield players to get in the box and he’s arrived in the box and scored late on, and for a 16-year-old to be doing that is brilliant.”
The victory, which also featured a clean sheet for goalkeeper Nick Pope as he got some game-time under his belt, kept the Clarets’ hopes of a top-two finish and a place in the play-offs alive.
With one game to go (at Charlton Athletic), Stone’s men will probably need another three points and hope Birmingham win neither of their final two fixtures.
But even if they are pipped for the runners-up spot in the northern section, Stone is pleased with the progress that’s been made in a season which has also seen Dwight McNeil burst onto the first-team scene, Ali Koiki get a first taste of League football at Swindon Town and others fast-track their development.
“I’ve tried to keep the momentum going and if we fall short, I’ll have to accept that this year,” added the U23s’ boss.
“There have been a lot of positives. This is only the second year for the Under-23s (in the league), so it’s brilliant.
“We’ve come a long way in a short space of time, just like the first team.
“It will have its challenges and won’t be perfect all the way along the line, but we’ve got to be delighted at how the whole football club is going – even though we’re always trying to achieve more.”