Mowbray 'really excited' by Rovers U18s ahead of Youth Cup tie

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Rovers prospect Ash Phillips
Rovers prospect Ash Phillips

Tony Mowbray will be keeping a close eye on Rovers Under-18s as they return to FA Youth Cup action tonight - with the club having high hopes for several of those on display.

Ryan Kidd’s side will host Sheffield Wednesday at Ewood Park (7pm) looking to make it into the quarter finals.

Rovers have been impressive throughout the season, topping the Under-18s Premier League north division and making it into the fifth round of the FA Youth Cup with relative ease after a 5-1 win at Birmingham City and 3-0 win over Stoke City.

A number of the squad have trained with Mowbray’s first-team group, with central defender Ash Phillips and midfielder Adam Wharton, brother of Scott, part of the squad for the FA Cup defeat at Wigan Athletic earlier this month.

And Mowbray said: “The Academy, we’re really excited by the Under-18s and hopefully they can keep performing at the level,” he said.

“There’s two or three in that team that we have really high hopes for.

“While the Academy is producing and you’re buying young players as well, that you feel will supplement, hopefully the team keeps pushing on upwards. That’s the plan.”

Entry is free for supporters, with this crop tipped to go deep in the competition, just as Rovers did in 2020 when they reached the semi-finals.

That run was built upon good home results, and while Rovers’ fourth round tie was played at Leyland and the round three was an away tie at St Andrew’s, Kidd’s side will get the opportunity to plat at Ewood tonight.

“We’re all looking forward to it, it’s a really good tie and at Ewood which is an added bonus,” he explained.

“So far so good, really strong displays. We’ve scored eight goals, conceded one, we’re playing the way we want to play so really pleased with it so far.

“The identity, we play how we want to play. My experience with the Youth Cup with other teams I’ve been involved with over the years is they’re very nervy nights, but we’ve controlled the ball in both games and been looking really dominant.

“They’ve been so consistent, their attitude and willingness to learn has been excellent, so we go into the game with no worries, we’ve got full confidence and it’s up to them on the night to produce what they have been.”

Rovers will go into the game as favourites, not least because of their Category One status.

That saw them enter the competition at round three, while the Owls, a Category Two Academy, have already won four matches to reach this stage, including a victory over Preston North End last time out and Southampton in round three.

“They’re a big team and they’ve won four games in the competitions, which included a great victory against Southampton,” Kidd added.

“It’s going to be a really tough game. It’s a different type of challenge for us because we’ve not played against Sheffield Wednesday in a long time.

“They are a big club with a lot of tradition and it should be a good game.

“They have their strengths, but we’ll focus on what we can do to hurt them.

Harry Leonard signed professional terms with Rovers last year and is the Under-18s’ top scorer.

He netted a fine free kick in round four, while also scoring in the win at Birmingham City.

The 18-year-old is excited about the prospect of playing at Ewood and knows all eyes will be on them.

He added: “The Ewood Park experience will be very different for us, but it’s a great stadium, a great place to play and there will be eyes on us on the night.

“People want to see what we’re about and it’s important to do what we do best.

“We want to get the win, get into the next round and play well.”

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