On a very cold and wet morning in Burnley, we arrived with an air of excitement coated with confidence and self-assurance that I struggle to remember witnessing in the previous semester. The environment and surroundings seemed to be a driving force rather than a stumbling block of expectations. We knew before the game that Burnley would have an array of talent at their disposal with a variety of age groups on show.
The game itself started very brightly with both teams looking to cement their playing styles on the game on a great surface allowing good fluent passing. As RIASA played the first half into a very strong headwind it was difficult to get out with any purpose at times, even though Burnley were restricted to minimal opportunities thanks to the concentration and marshalling of our back 4 to keep us tight and compact not allowing Burnley to break us down.
There were lots of possession based moves from both sides who were playing at a very high tempo, honestly, Burnley began to put us under increased pressure as the half went on. This resulted in numerous corners, and finally, our resilience was broken with a simple tap-in at the far post from a great delivery from a corner. Our response was great as we continued to pass and move creating great passing lines and finally got beyond their back line having adapted to the conditions.
Our first goal finally came from a defensive corner breakaway, (straight off the training ground) a cleared header from Bell fell to Mcfarlane at the edge of our box who duly played in Davis wide on our right, he beat one man and found Damba, Mcfarlane had continued his run from the defensive unit, Damba set Davis and a sublime pass cutting the Burnley Defense found Mcfarlane who drove into the box and found the bottom corner with a fierce strike, 1-1. Great reply and well deserved.
Very quickly we came back to earth with an awarded penalty to Burnley, a straight ball caught us out resulting in a last-ditch tackle from Fossen ( I thought it was a good tackle), The referee awarded a penalty. Up steps Demartino with a magnificent save and collects the rebound at the feet of the Burnley striker. Brilliant. The half then came to a close with again both teams looking to keep possession and playing through the thirds creating attacking options.
With the temperature dropping and the snow getting thicker conditions were becoming much more taxing with the ball skidding off the surface at pace. We seemed to grow from the scoreline and the fact that this half the headwind was in our favour.
A bright start resulted in some early half chances from some great build up and passing often seen in the professional environment. Damba started to become a pivotal part of our play now that playing forward became an option. We got our second goal and deservedly so through again a counterattack this time down our left-hand side, Trask picked up a clearance and duly found a galloping Davis with a sublime pass splitting the centre back and fullback for Davis to run onto. He neatly drove into the box and finished effortlessly into the far bottom corner.
This in turn only gave us greater confidence and somehow the intensity and tempo rose again as a result. Our third goal came with a great move from defence to attack from a number of great passing combinations found McKeown beyond the Burnley fullback, he confidently found the run of Damba between the two centre-backs who finished calmly but with a ruthless streak. We now were completely controlling the game and looked potent every time we went forward.
Burnley pulled it back to 3-2 but again the confidence and mental strength of RIASA helped us to continue to play and do the things that were bringing them success throughout the game. Our final reward came in the 81st minute, Elgi somehow skillfully broke between two Burnley defenders and found Mcfarlane’s run into the box with a pass, he drove to the byline and crossed into Mckeown who finished well into the top corner.
Burnley threatened our goal in the last ten minutes from distance, but with great handling from Szymaszek, we never looked troubled. The whistle blew for full-time, what a performance and result.
From a coaches point of view, showcase games are met with anticipation twinned with problem-solving even before the game has begun. This game and performance is 100% what we have been building up towards since the start of August. A workrate, desire, attitude and confidence to play in a structured passing style fitting what we as an academy set out to achieve in our philosophy statement.
A very proud moment for all attached to RIASA, and one of achievement to see how far we have progressed in such a short space of time. Great result but a much greater performance by all. Well Done.
Parents, you should be very proud.
– Rob Jones, Head Academy Coach