All smiles as Academy players avoid ‘rocket’

Theo Widdrington scored twice in the second half, along with Matt Mayes, to help Pompey Academy see off Exeter in the Youth Alliance Cup Picture: Neil Marshall
Theo Widdrington scored twice in the second half, along with Matt Mayes, to help Pompey Academy see off Exeter in the Youth Alliance Cup Picture: Neil Marshall
Dion Donohue. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey defender: My responsibility for error

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Mikey Harris praised his Pompey Academy players’ character after their second-half super show sealed a remarkable 4-2 fightback win over Exeter in the EFL Youth Alliance Cup.

The Blues trailed Tuesday’s first-round tie 2-0 at the interval.

But rather than give his players a rollicking at half-time, Harris kept his message short and sweet – to go out and play with a smile on their face.

And on the full-time whistle the hosts had every right to be pleased with themselves, after Theo Widdrington and Matt Mayes hit doubles to turn a thrilling encounter on its head at Furze Lane.

Harris said: ‘There are times when the boys need a rocket, without a shadow of a doubt.

‘But in my experience players know where they are at and it is about trying to tap into them.

‘Whether it is consciously or sub-consciously, you need the right message to have a positive impact on their performance.

‘They got themselves into a bit of a state but a half-time it allowed us to hit that reset button.

‘I only spoke for two minutes and then I sent them back out – it wasn’t a rousing speech!

‘The message to the boys was to go and express themselves, play with a smile on their face and stick together.

‘That is what they did.’

For Harris, delight arrived in the consistency of his side’s second-half performance.

He said: ‘Our criticism this season is we have real quality in the team, a good work ethic and a lot of energy, but we really struggle as a group to perform consistently for 90 minutes.

‘We all know how hard that is at any level.

‘You are never going to perform perfectly for 90 minutes, we understand that.

‘But the amount of time we are performing consistently for has not been high enough, both with and without the ball.

‘We really need to sustain performance levels over a period of time.

‘And when we do that, as we did for the whole of the second half, we were excellent.

‘We were patient and played some really good stuff at times, which was really pleasing.

‘We scored four goals and really could have scored more.’

Pompey Academy, who played out a 2-2 Youth Alliance League south west division draw with Plymouth on Saturday thanks to goals from Tommy Scutt and Dan Smith, at are back in league action on Saturday as they travel to Bristol Rovers (10.30am).

POMPEY ACADEMY: Hall; Chandler, Saidy (Casey, 80), Wakley, McDowell (Hancott, 80), Widdrington, Scutt, Bedford, Smith (Read, 65), Woodward (Mayes, 65), Bradbury