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Barker is a shooting star

KEITH Barker was once concentrating on scoring runs - but now he is grabbing attention with the goals he is scoring.

KEITH Barker was once concentrating on scoring runs - but now he is grabbing attention with the goals he is scoring.

The 17-year-old swapped Enfield Cricket Club and the chance of a contract at Lancashire Cricket Club for a three year contract at Blackburn Rovers in the summer.

And, with 11 goals in 13 games for the Under 17s, he has built up a formidable strike partnership with Joe Garner, from Whalley.

Barker is the creator of many of Garner's goals and the latter has scored 24 in 15 games - as the Under 17s have been free-scoring after Christmas with 16 goals in three games.

And the Under 17s are captained by another local lad Joel Byrom who has scored eight goals from midfield this season.

Not only have the teenagers done well at Under 17 level but their eye-catching performances have led to reserve call-ups.

Barker made his second string debut at 16 earlier this season and has had four starts with one goal.

Byrom, meanwhile, has made a sub appearance for the reserves.

"They have both done really well," said Rovers Academy chief Bobby Downes. "We would love to think they have big futures in the game.

"Keith has done well and made the step up into the reserves earlier in the season and it is nice for him to have a taste of it and then return to his own age group and hopefully he will progress.

"Joel has played for the Under 19s and the reserves. He has a nice left foot and an eye for goal.

"The Under 17s need to be in the top two to qualify for the play-offs. We are a bit off that yet but when we have got a full side together, we have a good team."

Meanwhile Matty Derbyshire is adapting to life in Blackburn's Under 19 squad.

The youngster signed for the Ewood outfit from Great Harwood for £20,000 at the end of last year. And he helped the Academy Under 19 side maintain their unbeaten run in 2004, scoring with his head in the 1-1 draw with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

"He has had to come and settle in and get used to the club which always takes time," said Downes. "We will give him a bit of time but are pleased with him."

Derbyshire was cheering on Great Harwood on Monday night in their win over Castleton and the Harwood side were set to return the favour on Wednesday.

Derbyshire, Barker and Byrom were all set to start in the FA Youth Cup against West Brom in a fourth round tie at Morecambe FC's Christie Park before the game was postponed because of the weather.


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