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Barr expecting a tough test

Billy knows his side will have to be at their best to beat Blackpool at Ewood tonight

6 March 2018

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Billy Barr is not underestimating the size of the challenge ahead as his Under-18s side look to book their place in the semi-finals of the FA Youth Cup.

Rovers' young charges face Blackpool at Ewood Park this evening (kick-off 7pm) with a place in the last four of the prestigious youth cup competition at stake for the winners.

Barr's boys have enjoyed a memorable cup campaign to date, winning 1-0 away to Tranmere in the first round, before seeing off Wrexham (3-1), Stoke City (2-1), Watford (2-0) and Nottingham Forest (5-1) all on home soil. 

Rovers' performances have improved as the competition has gone on and Barr knows that his side will have to raise their game once again if they are to beat a Blackpool side who have already eliminated the likes of Southampton, West Ham and Ipswich Town.

"We've been on a really good run so far," said Barr. "Obviously we come up against Blackpool now and we know it's going to be a really difficult game.

"They've had some great wins along the way themselves, so it's pleasing to be there, but obviously both teams will want to now progress to the semi-finals.

"We've just taken each game as it comes and we seem to have got progressively better with each round and we're hoping that that can be the case again.

"It's now just a matter of making sure that we're focused. We've prepared properly, as we have done in every other round. We'll pay Blackpool the same respect that we've showed everybody else. We've got a game plan and hopefully it can carry us through to the next round.

"It will be hugely tough. I've seen them three times myself and they are together, they work their socks off for each other, they have quality in the right areas, they're organised and disciplined, and they're not scared to make a tackle either.

"When I've seen them, other teams haven't been able to handle that. I'm hoping we can and we can produce a disciplined performance. 

"They are a team that is going well. They've seen off West Ham, they've seen off Southampton, they've seen off Ipswich, so we know what's coming. It's just a case of making sure the lads start the game as they mean to go on for the 90 minutes."

Welsh whizz-kid Jack Vale was the star of the show in the last round - netting a hat-trick in the 5-1 victory over Forest - and Barr is hoping he can replicate his heroics.

"It was a really special night for him," added the youth coach. "Only a couple of weeks before he was lower than a snake's belly in footballing terms.

"He didn't feel confident and then all of a sudden, in the space of a week - that phrase 'a week's a long time in football' - he was on top of the world.

"And I was delighted for him, because he's been good this season. His goals return really hasn't shown how good he's been.

"His development is going exactly as we want it to go. He's dipping in and out of the Under-23s. He's still involved in the Welsh international setup.

"For him on the night it was the icing on the cake so far. But our challenge now is to try and get him a few more like that."

Just under 500 fans turned out at Ewood Park for the round five fixture and Barr is hoping tonight's local derby will attract a bumper crowd, who can really get behind the boys.

"It would be great," he added. "I think the last round was probably the most vocal they've been.

"It was great having the John Buckleys and Jack Evans of the past - the Under-8s - leading the teams out and bringing their parents.

"There's going to be quite a few Blackpool fans, so it's probably going to be the best atmosphere that some of our lads have ever been involved in and that again brings a bit of added pressure.

"Can we cope with it? We'll see on the night."

Admission for tonight's quarter-final tie is £4 for adults and £2 for concessions. Supporters will now be located in the Jack Walker Stand Lower Tier via Turnstile J. Please wrap up warm and take extra care on the access roads around the stadium.  

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