Andy Farrell praised the combination of youth and experience as the Under-23s outplayed Bolton to enhance their play-off hopes.
With a change in personnel within the squad – following a mass exodus of players on loan since the turn of the year – a top-two finish in the Professional Development League’s northern selection may be a tough ask and is not the priority.
But a 2-0 win at Leyland took the Clarets back up above Leeds into second spot.
The victory was achieved with the youngest line-up of the season so far, with seven scholars starting the game and three more coming off the bench.
And acting boss Farrell was delighted with how they performed – along with guidance from captain and ‘senior pro’ Jimmy Dunne, who is staying in-house for the remainder of the season to be around both first-team and U23 squads.
“His attitude is first-class,” said Farrell of Dunne, who was encouraged to have his say in the dressing room to help his younger team-mates.
“He’s a top lad and he probably plays a bit differently now.
“When he first came in, he probably played slightly different and took a few more risks but now he’s doing all the jobs that you want your centre-half to do.
“He heads it, he kicks it, he defends and he’s quicker and stronger. He’s got a real frame on him now and he’s a really good leader and he’s great around the group.”
The Clarets secured a 10th win of the campaign to move back within three points of leaders Nottingham Forest thanks to excellent goals towards the end of each half from Chris Conn-Clarke and Max Thompson, who both scored for the first time at this level.
And Farrell – who was without defenders Ollie Younger, Bobby Thomas and Ali Koiki through illness and injury – believes that was the least his young side deserved.
“They were excellent, their energy levels, getting around the pitch and doing all the scruffy jobs, as they say,” he added.
“From there they played and passed the ball really well. Ne-Jai (Tucker) and Chris were very good, coming in and playing narrow and picking the ball up, and Max Thompson was as good as I’ve seen at the top end of the pitch. His hold-up play and link-up play was good.
“If we needed to work on something it was probably the end product so when we won the ball high it’s about finding that final pass or final touch of the ball in the back of the net.
“I haven’t seen us intercept and regain balls as much as that and then find a real opportunity to score a goal.
“If they we had a bit more of the rub of the green or been a little bit better in front of goal, they would have probably come off four or five up at half time.
“If we had finished the game in the first half and the second hadn’t been so good, I would still have been quite happy, because the first half was really excellent.”
The Clarets now face a quick turn-around with a Premier League Cup tie at Crystal Palace on Thursday, knowing anything other than a win will end their hopes of progressing from Group G.