COACH Alan Connell believes Cherries’ Academy is on the right track thanks to the club’s ambitious hierarchy and senior management.

Connell on Friday saw Cherries reach the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in more than 20 years.

Strikes from Jaidon Anthony and Jake Scrimshaw, coupled with an own goal, earned Cherries a 3-0 win over Hull City at Vitality Stadium.

It set up another home clash with either Tottenham or Preston, who duel tomorrow at Stevenage for the right to meet Cherries.

Appointed under-18 manager in the summer, Connell has carried on the good work following Carl Fletcher’s promotion to take charge of the under-21s.

The youth set up, which is predominantly based at Canford Arena, is headed by Joe Roach and currently employs more than 100 staff.

It is a far cry from when Connell first signed for Cherries in 2002, with Roach almost single-handedly running a department which had been disbanded during the late 1990s.

Although victory over Hull was something of a scalp as the Tigers have category two status, Connell was keen to play down talk of a giant-killing for the Dorset club which operates at category three.

Connell, who made more than 100 appearances for Cherries across two spells, told the Daily Echo: “To a point, we had been the underdogs due to the difference in category.

“But what is great about our Academy is the club hierarchy are backing it in a big way. We want to progress and become category two.

“A new training ground is planned and staffing levels have increased. The infrastructure of the youth department is growing and improving all the time.

“That means we feel very much as if we are already operating at a higher level.

“We are still officially a category three club so it was nice to beat category two opposition.

“A lot of people put in a lot of hours and hard work so I was really pleased for everybody concerned.”

Currently fourth in the South West Division of the Football League Youth Alliance, having lost just two games, Cherries will face either Preston – who are third in the north west equivalent – or Spurs – who compete in the Premier League Under-18 League.

Connell, who will head to Stevenage on a fact-finding mission, revealed he had kept Cherries’ poor record in the competition from his players ahead of kick off.

The 34-year-old former striker, who cut his teeth in coaching with the club’s under-12s, added: “I didn’t mention it for obvious reasons.

“I just tried to keep the build-up as normal as possible because that was what everyone had wanted. Whether the lads knew or not themselves, I don’t know.

“But I made a point of telling them at the end so they are aware of it now. Hopefully, it might take a bit of pressure off in the next round.

“We have a lot of work to do in the meantime but are already looking forward to it.

“I would like to thank all our supporters who attended and, hopefully, we will get another good crowd for the fourth round.”