Harris explains decision to stand by system in Academy draw

Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris.    Picture: Neil Marshall
Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris. Picture: Neil Marshall
Brett Pitman. Picture: Joe Pepler

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MIKEY HARRIS explained his decision to persist with a 4-4-2 formation in Pompey Academy’s goalless draw with Stevenage on Saturday but admitted: If it was a results-based game, I would have changed things.

A youthful Blues side – deprived of a number of second-year scholars – impressed from a defensive viewpoint on their Merit League 1 division bow against the Boro’.

But the home side lacked their usual attacking vigour and guile in a lacklustre affair at Furze Lane.

With the Hertfordshire visitors packing the centre of midfield in a 4-3-3 formation including two wide men, Academy coach Harris was given the opportunity to change things around at the break.

But rather than put his players back into their ‘comfort zone’ in a bid to earn a maiden Merit League victory, Harris instead left the young Blues to fend for themselves – a predetermined move that taught him a lot on the sidelines.

He said: ‘When kids are developing, you want them to be stretched and taken out of their comfort zone.

‘We played a 4-4-2 formation against their 4-3-3, which meant our two central midfielders were outnumbered against their three for the whole game.

‘If this was a results-based game, would I have changed things to match them up or do something a bit different?

‘Yeah, I probably would have.

‘But at half-time, the discussion with the players was to say that yeah, we were outnumbered but to ask them to find a way to work our formation against their system.

‘We chose to do that rather than put the lads back into their comfort zone by playing a 4-3-3 and going man to man where it’s all nicey, nicey.’

For Harris, that particular decision was made with a view to giving his players a taste of what may be to come in the professional game.

He said: ‘We wanted to give the players the exposure of playing in a 4-4-2 formation up against a 4-3-3.

‘If they get called up to Andy’s (Awford) first team and at that present time he is playing a 4-4-2 against a 4-3-3, then they will be expected to know how to play that.

‘It is about preparing them to do that – and for this next six-week block we are on a 4-4-2.

‘There’s no denying that if you come up against a three in midfield it’s a challenge.

‘It is difficult but, for me, watching from the sideline it was nice to see that challenge, how the players responded to it and how they worked hard to try to find solutions to make it work.

‘Unfortunately, we didn’t do that particularly well with the ball against Stevenage but without the ball we did.’

An injury-free Pompey Academy will persist with their 4-4-2 system when they travel to Swindon in Merit League 1 on Saturday (11am).