MIDDLESBROUGH are on the verge of lifting the FA Youth Cup for the first time in the club's history after an extra special second half display in the first leg of the final at Villa Park last night.

Boro's young guns - hoping to emulate the seniors' success in the Carling Cup in February - scored all their goals after half-time to give them the upperhand in what looks set to be a memorable return clash with Aston Villa at the Riverside on Monday.

The Teessiders, runners-up a year ago against Manchester United, defended well early on when the Villans looked the stronger team.

But a goal from defender David Wheater, his third in the competition this season, and a classy double from striker James Morrison, who made his senior debut in the FA Cup win over Notts County in January, have given Boro a handsome lead.

Victories over Fulham, Walsall, Newcastle, Tranmere and Crewe secured Boro's passage to the final.

And it had been thought that Villa, who lifted the trophy just two years ago, would prove a much tougher proposition under the guidance of former Ayresome Park defender Tony McAndrew.

Skipper Luke Moore, brother of Villa first team star Stefan, and Steven Foley were in the successful team in 2002 that overcame Wayne Rooney's Everton and they were both included in last night's side.

And their reputable Cup pedigree was evident inside the first 15 minutes when the hosts should have taken the lead.

Striker Gabriel Agbonlaor fired over when clean through on goal and then Boro keeper David Knight made two outstanding quick-fire stops to deny both Kyle Nix and Foley shortly after.

But, despite plenty of early Villa possession, Boro settled and could have been in front had either Morrison or the tricky Anthony Peacock found the target.

And less than two minutes after the restart Wheater's half-hit shot, after Villa failed to deal with Tony McMahon's corner, found its way beyond Austrian keeper Robert Olejnik.

Then, just five minutes later, Darlington-born Morrison, who attended the town's Hummersknott School and has been with Boro since the age of 11, slotted in the second goal after being put through by Peacock.

But it was Morrison's well struck penalty, put firmly in the left corner of the net after he had been brought down by Olejnik, that put Boro clearly in the driving seat ahead of Monday's return leg.

Villa: Olejnik; Ward, P Green (Grant 72), Troest, Cahill; Foley, Kabeya (Paul 69), Gardner, Nix; Agbonlaor, Moore. Subs (not used): Masalin, Osbourne, N Green.

Boro: Knight; McMahon, Bates, Wheater, Masters; Kennedy, Liddle, Taylor; Craddock, Morrison (Johnson 90), Peacock. Subs (not used): Pennock, Reed, Cattermole, Hines.

Man of the Match: James Morrison - a double for the Darlington-born striker.

Result: Aston Villa Youth 0 Middlesbrough Youth 3.