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Young guns hope to be heroes against Villans


AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping to book their place in the FA Youth Cup quarter-finals when they host Aston Villa on Friday.

The Cherries have only reached the fifth round of the competition once in their history, but a dramatic 2-1 victory over Mansfield Town at Vitality Stadium in December set up a testing away tie with Oxford United.

A Jake Scrimshaw hat-trick and a convincing Cherries performance in that game secured an emphatic 3-0 win over the Youth Alliance leaders.

Aston Villa, who beat Reading in the fourth round, will be favourites to progress due to their category one academy status.

But under-18 manager Alan Connell insists his underdogs will do what they do best.

He told afcb.co.uk: “Playing at the stadium in the biggest knockout competition we enter, you have more eyes on you and probably feel that little bit of extra pressure.

“We’ve had two tough games so far in the FA Youth Cup, but now we come up against opposition with a category one academy and an excellent catchment area.

"They’ll go into the game as big favourites, but for us it’s about doing what we do well and giving our best. That’s all I can ask.

“We struggled against Mansfield in the third round and I think the occasion got to our players. But we came through that and delivered a mature performance at Oxford. Those experiences stand us in good stead for this game.”

One player who has featured heavily for AFC Bournemouth under-18s this season is midfielder Nathan Moriah-Welsh, who says he can’t wait for this week’s challenge.

He told afcb.co.uk: “We’re buzzing for the game. As we get further and further, the competition gets harder but that’s what we want.

"We all want to play in big stadiums, so the occasion and the atmosphere is important to us. Big stadium games really help us in our development.

“Personally, I prefer the pressure of having the crowd watch the game because I think I perform better when people are watching me. Negative or positive, when people are judging my game, it makes me a better player. We’ll be fine with the pressure.

“Whether getting to the next level means playing for the under-21s or the first team, we just want to improve ourselves and become better players, both in a team and as individuals.”

Speaking of the first team, Moriah-Welsh has recently found himself training with Eddie Howe’s squad on occasion and told afcb.co.uk how the senior players helped him settle in.

“I trained a couple of times last week with the first team,” he said. “Eddie Howe called me up. They were good experiences and I was really happy for the opportunities. Andrew Surman, Joshua King and Nathan Ake in particular were all really welcoming and helped me settle in, as did the whole team.”

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