Tony Philliskirk won’t fight shy of a top-two challenge as the Clarets’ youths face a major test of their play-off credentials against Leeds United.
Burnley face their Yorkshire rivals at the Barnfield Training Centre on Tuesday afternoon (KO 1pm) knowing that a win will lift them level on points with the second-placed Yorkshiremen.
That would also narrow the gap to leaders Sheffield Wednesday to just two points with the top two finishers in the northern group going into the end-of-season title deciders in the U18 Professional Development League.
“It’s a fantastic incentive, to try and get into the play-offs at the end of the season,” said youth-team boss Philliskirk.
“Winning is a part of learning and it’s something we want to encourage.
“The lads have been great in the last few weeks. They’re in a good place and have shown a really good spirit.
“They have really got the bit between their teeth and it will be interesting to see how they do against quality opposition.
“It’s a big game. Leeds are up there near the top and we will be playing a very good team. We’re under no illusions about that.
“Along with Sheffield Wednesday, it’s probably our biggest test yet and it’s one we’re looking forward to. You want to play and test yourself again what are considered the best teams.”
The Clarets, who lost 2-1 at Leeds at the end of November, are unbeaten in the league in their last five games, with their only dropped points in that run a 2-2 draw at home to Wednesday at the turn of the year.
Weather has disrupted their programme since, including forcing the postponement of the original home date against Leeds.
But Philliskirk’s side brushed off the cobwebs with a 1-0 win at Barnsley last weekend with the boss pleased to see a second successive clean sheet and only a third of the campaign.
“It was good to get playing again. It wasn’t a great game, but the lads dug in and in a way it was a nice way to win, to win ugly,” added Philliskirk, whose has been working on an improved defensive record since his appointment in December.
“The lads showed a different side to the game and we kept another clean sheet – following on from the one at Crewe – which was the real positive.”