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Youngsters through to play-off final

The AFC Bournemouth under-16s celebrate winning a trophy.

AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth Under-16s will play in the playoff final of the U16s EFL Floodlit Cup against Northampton Under-16s on Saturday.

Last season, the squad won the Under-15s category of the cup and reached the Under-16s final while playing a year above their level.

The fine form has continued this season, the Cherries having won the South West League while remaining unbeaten in their last 17 games, scoring 55 goals and conceding only 15. They haven’t lost a competitive game since August.

The Under-16s also won the Feretti Cup this season in Italy, where they beat Serie C side Rimini FC on penalties in the final.

Much of the Cherries’ success has been earned through the impressive 34 goal-return of striker Euan Pollock, who has also scored one goal in two games for the Under-18s this season.

Elsewhere in the squad, centre-back Owen Bevan earned himself a callup to Wales Under-16s, while goalkeeper Joe Oluwabusola has recently been on international duty with Nigeria for the 2019 Africa U17 Cup of Nations qualifiers.

With Northampton the winners of the South East League earning them their place in the final, the two sides will face off at Military Stadium in Aldershot at 11am.

AFC Bournemouth Academy Lead Youth Development Coach, Graham Mills, previewed the game with afcb.co.uk:

"We played Northampton in the Feretti Cup in Italy. They were in our group, so we’ve got an idea of how they might play. It was quite a close game in the first half against them and it was 1-0 to us at the break. We ended up winning 5-0, but I expect the game in the final will be a lot closer because they know how we play now.

"It should be another good test for us because their Under-16s and Under-18s are doing really well in their leagues. They’ve been dominant, so it should be a good test and we’re looking forward to it.

"We won our division this season on goal difference. Oxford United Under-16s won as many games as we did, seven out of eight, but our goal difference was better, and we’ve done very well in that respect with all the academy teams this season.

"We have an emphasis on being creative in the final third and letting the players express themselves, and that’s reflected in the results.

"At Under-16s, it is our job as staff to ensure that individual and collective development supersedes a standalone result. Jack Simpson is one product of the Academy who recently went through that process and made his debut for England Under-21s.

"It is of course great for us to be involved in such games, giving the players exposure to playing at a stadium and in front of what will hopefully be a small crowd. The FA Youth Cup helps them to prepare for such tests, and we have another game at home to Mansfield at home coming up in that tournament.

"This will stand them in good stead for when they make the next step in their progression pathway. We hope to contribute to what will be a good game of football and a good experience for the players regardless of the outcome, playing a fearless attacking game, allowing our creative players to express themselves.

"Despite being expansive in our play this season, we have also been reasonably frugal at the back and hopefully if we can continue to be defensively disciplined and work hard throughout the moments we spend off the ball, we will give a good account of ourselves in the final."

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