TERRY Pashley was a proud man after watching his young charges push an expensively-assembled Manchester City all the way in the FA Youth Cup at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday night.
Up against a side that cost cost around £5m, Burnley were finally undone by two goals in the last 13 minutes - one from Marcos Lopes, who had netted for the first team in the FA Cup win over Watford five days earlier, and Jose Angel Pozo, a £2.4m capture from Real Madrid.
The young Clarets had famously beaten Manchester United 4-3 in extra time at Old Trafford in the previous round, but this was a bridge too far, and Pashley enthused: “There are a lot of positives.
“I told them there is no disgrace at times getting beat by someone who’s better than you.
“We have to be honest, they were better than us - like Blackburn were at the back end of last season (in the semi-final).
“We knew we were going to be playing against a good side and I think everyone who saw the game saw a very good side and a side that’s been expensively put together, from all corners of Europe.
“But I thought the boys worked extremely hard.
“We knew their shape was a diamond, which we haven’t come across before, and when you’ve got someone like Marcos Lopes at the top end it’s going to have an impact at some stage of the game.
“I thought we kept him really quiet in the first half and he was going deeper and deeper, but all it takes is that one little lapse in concentration and those quality players do hurt you, and he certainly did.
“He’s got number 10 on his back and a lovely left foot, good balance, fantastic acceleration, great composure. Fair play to the kid.
“I like to give people credit and I enjoyed watching the lad play.”
It might have been different had the Clarets capitalised on an early chance, after Jason Gilchrist robbed skipper Karim Rekik - another with first team experience for City - before sending Jamie Frost clear with a reverse pass, but the winger passed up the opportunity.
Gilchrist - the hat-trick hero from Old Trafford - also forced a couple of saves in the first half, but City’s class told in the end.
It was Burnley’s first competitive beating United a month ago, after seeing two league games postponed before Christmas, with training also affected by the weather.
And on the morning of the game, Under 16s wingers Brad Jackson and Frost both had other things on their mind, as they took GCSE exams: “We didn’t have a great deal of time to prepare because Jamie and Brad - two schoolboys on the wings - have been doing their exams so they’ve not been able to get in and do things.
“Really we only had Thursday.
“Their dads and mums rushed them over so we could do a little bit (of shape) in the afternoon.
“So it’s a long day and a tiring day.
“They’ve done fantastic.
“We trained early afternoon and set the shape out and we worked out their strengths through the middle of the pitch and the boys dealt with that exceptionally well.
“So they’ve got that ability to take things on board.
“The one disappointment from my point of view is that I know they’re better in possession. They gave the ball away easily and cheaply, and I know they’re better than that.”