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Stone Praises Cup Battlers

U23s' boss reflects on positive run as whiff of victory eludes Clarets

29 March 2019

Steve Stone admitted his side missed the scent of victory but praised them for their cup spirit as the Clarets reached the end of the road against Leeds United.

A 3-1 defeat ended the U23s’ hopes of reaching the last four of the Premier League Cup as Leeds advanced at the Barnfield Training Centre.

But it could have been different had the Clarets continued their comeback after Dan Agyei’s equaliser just before the break looked to have turned the quarter-final tie Burnley’s way.

"The response was brilliant,” said Stone after his side raised their game following a 3-2 league defeat at Bristol City last Monday which allowed Leeds to clinch the northern group title in the Professional Development League.

“They are a good side and a top of our league. We are a bit behind most clubs at this stage, so we have to be proud of what we’ve achieved so far and I’m proud of the players for what they’ve done.

“I’ve told them that and I’ve also told them they have to learn quickly because the game changed and turned on defensive errors, a set-play and a cross into the box, which have cost us, when usually the defensive side of it has been a strong point.

“They sniffed it and sensed their moment and they won it. We didn’t sniff our moment and that was the difference.”

Burnley couldn’t capitalise on their dominance either side of the break as Leeds went on to score two headed goals in the last 25 minutes.

But Burnley bowed out with their reputation at this level enhanced after coming through the group stages and then knocking out Leicester City in the last 16.

“We had a really good go at it. We always talk about the 7-1 defeat at Bournemouth at the start of this competition and the way the lads dragged themselves through the group,” added Stone.

“They did incredibly to get through the group and then Leicester was another really tough tie and they got through.

“And this wasn’t a tie that was too far for us. It wasn’t something we looked at and thought ‘they’re better than us’ and that is disappointing.

“But the lads are a credit to the football club and to themselves as a team and a group that they have managed to come this far.

“This is where we need to start getting to, to produce players for the first team.”

The Clarets now have three league games left to try and secure a top-two finish in the league and a play-off place.

And Stone – whose side is also into the final of the Lancashire FA Senior Cup – insists that is now the target.

“We will not be letting up one little bit,” added the U23s’ boss who takes his side to former club Nottingham Forest next Fridat.

“We will be pushing as hard as we can to get over the line in terms of the league programme where we need to finish in the top two.

“That’s another difficult challenge for them, but again one I think they relish.”

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