IT is not just the Burnley first team that has been forced to cope with a backlog of fixtures, the reserves have been stacking up the games as well.

But the struggles that fit again players Steve Davis, Glen Little and Paul Weller had against Sheffield United in midweek showed the important role that the second string has to play in the closing weeks of the season.

All three of those players featured in the last reserve game, a 2-0 defeat of Oldham, but there are several others who need to be playing regularly so that they are match sharp should Stan Ternent feel the need to give them the call.

For much of the season Ronnie Jepson's side has been nothing more than an extension of Terry Pashley's youth side, at least having the benefit of giving promising youngsters such as Matty O'Neill and Joel Pilkington the chance to show what they can do against more senior pros.

A host of injury and suspension problems for the first teamers meant there was no scope to play older players in the reserves.

Results have not been the best and the Clarets remain near the foot of the Avon Insurance Premier League table but Jepson has always insisted that the most important thing is to get things right for the manager, not the scores.

But now, at the business end of the season, the other role of the second string is going to be vital.

Greek stars Nik Michopoulos and Dimitri Papadopulos need games as they are restricted to a place on the first team bench while experienced pros Gordon Armstrong and Andy Payton also have to get some games under their belts.

The reserve side has struggled to keep up with the games they have been due to play because the first team has been so busy with games every midweek.

Even the last match was a hurriedly rearranged one against Oldham on a Wednesday afternoon, played to give the likes of Davis, Little, Weller and Robbie Blake a work-out.

There are seven games left to play with the home game against Bury now planned for April 30 and the trip to Tranmere Rovers still to be rearranged.

The first team is in action for the next couple of Tuesday nights and the reserves are not scheduled to play until they go to Barnsley a week on Wednesday.

When they do line-up, there will be plenty of players hoping to catch the manager's eye.