EDDIE Howe admits Cherries' blossoming talents face "defining moments" in their careers when they tackle the FA Youth Cup.

Howe, who played in the competition at Dean Court, confessed the gap between the academy and his first-team squad had grown but through no fault of the young players.

Cherries' fledglings tomorrow face Oxford United in the fourth round at Oxford City's Court Place Farm headquarters (7pm).

First-team boss Howe told the Daily Echo: "Looking back on my experiences of the FA Youth Cup, they were absolutely massive for me.

"It was the first time I had played in a stadium, under lights and with the manager watching, which was a chance to impress.

"They are defining moments in your career. A big section of what you are judged on in those games is your ability to rise to the challenge. When the pressure is on, can you perform?"

Jack Simpson and Kyle Taylor are the only Cherries academy graduates to feature for Howe's team this season.

"When we were in League One or League Two, you had to be at that standard to get a chance in the team," said Howe.

"Now as a Premier League club, you need to be Premier League standard.

"If you look at how many players have gone on to play in the Premier League since we had the Centre of Excellence and youth team, it is not a lot.

"We had some real success stories with Sam Vokes and Danny Ings but the numbers are slim.

"You are looking for those one or two individuals with the right temperament and ability to force their way through."

Under the stewardship of Alan Connell, the under-18s last season reached the fourth round of the FA Youth Cup for the first time in more than 20 years.

Last month's 2-1 victory against Mansfield at Vitality Stadium repeated the feat.

Connell told the Daily Echo: "In academy football, the FA Youth Cup is the big one and we have not always progressed as a club.

"These nights are so important for the boys' development.

"When I look back on my career, stadium experiences in front of a crowd in our most prestigious competition was special.

"The incentive is to do better than last season but it is a tough draw between two teams who know each other well."