Bees stung as Academy continue impressive unbeaten run

James Granger scored Pompey Academy's winning goal against Barnet earlier today    Picture: Neil Marshall
James Granger scored Pompey Academy's winning goal against Barnet earlier today Picture: Neil Marshall
Jack Whatmough models Pompey's new away kit in the club's promotional poster

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Pompey Academy extended their unbeaten Merit League 1 division start to five games with a gutsy 1-0 win over Barnet at Furze Lane earlier today.

James Granger scored the Blues’ all-important goal with a second-half free-kick.

But the hosts were made to work hard for their three points by a well-organised Bees outfit who arrived on the south coast as reigning Youth Alliance League south east division champions.

Indeed, it was a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that Pompey had three regular players unavailable.

Goalkeeper Alex Bass made the trip up to Accrington with the first team, deputising on the bench for the injured Michael Poke, while Adam May was ruled out with illness.

And the unfortunate Lewis Gill is unlikely to feature again this season after breaking his toe in training this week.

The hosts edged what was a scrappy first half, with Calvin Davies, Theo Widdrington and Liam Sayers all denied by the impressive Bees goalkeeper Kai McKenzie-Lyle.

The opening period belonged to the keepers, with Bass’ replacement in the Blues goal, Joe Hunt, denying Fumnaya Shomoton and Ryan Gondoh in quick succession.

Pompey led two minutes after the restart, though, when Davies was felled on the edge of the box and Granger’s low curling effort bobbled over the outstretched McKenzie-Lyle.

From then on it was the Bees who dictated proceedings, however, with the Blues largely relying on an impressive rearguard action to protect the points.

Hunt again did well to deny both Elliott Harris and Mathew Stevens, while full-backs Brandon Haunstrup and Fahad Rwakarambwe were kept busy by Harris and Gondoh respectively.

The home side remained a threat on the break, though, and having weathered the visiting storm, should have put the game to bed from a late counter-attack.

Substitute Brandon Joseph-Buadi showed good pace to leave his marker and round McKenzie-Lyle, but with the goal in his sights, chose to set-up onrushing team-mate Kaleem Haitham rather than shoot himself.

Sadly, for the hosts, Joseph-Buadi’s final ball let him down under pressure with Blues winger Haitham unable to collect the intended pass in his stride for a tap-in.

A head injury to Haunstrup resulted in five minutes of stoppage-time.

And there was to be late drama at the death when Bees winger Harris got past his Pompey marker and fired in an inviting low cross.

Incredibly, though, with the goal gaping, two Barnet players slid and missed the delivery when a last-gasp equaliser appeared a certainty.

And with that the referee’s final whistle sounded as a dogged Blues side extended their impressive run of form with a hard-fought win.

Academy boss Mark Kelly said: ‘There were elements of the game, such as our movement patterns, that were good, but I think we gave control away in the second half.

‘We were rushing things, panicking and not getting the quality – we came off the game plan a little bit, which the players identified themselves.

‘The positive, though, is that at the beginning of the season we would probably have lost that game.

‘But the way we are now as a group, we work for 90 minutes and are mentally resilient.’

POMPEY ACADEMY: Hunt, Rwakarambwe, Nilsen, Field, Haunstrup, Davies, Granger, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Widdrington (Bradbury, 90), Haitham, Sayers, (Joseph-Buadi, 70)