Mikey Harris lauded Pompey Reserves’ gritty performance as they secured a place in the Premier League Cup group stage with a 1-0 victory against Southend.
Conor Chaplin’s seventh-minute strike proved to be the difference between the two sides at Westleigh Park.
The Blues went on a memorable run in the competition last season under Harris’ stewardship.
They beat the likes of Everton and Sheffield United before being knocked out by Swansea City in the semi-final.
Harris admitted it wasn’t a vintage game against Southend, but he was pleased with how his side dug in to earn the win.
He said: ‘I’m delighted to be back in the competition.
‘It was all about the result and to give ourselves the opportunity of getting into the group stage.
‘We were looking to get through and that was the key.
‘Let’s not kid ourselves, it wasn’t pretty and not by any stretch our most fluid performance.
‘But I felt the boys showed great character and great resilience to stay in the game and keep a clean sheet.
‘We started the match with a young side and finished it with an even younger team as three 16-year-olds were on the pitch in an under-23s competition.’
The Blues have been drawn in Group F of the Premier League Cup alongside Everton, Leicester City and Barnsley
Harris is relishing the challenge of facing top sides once again and feels the competition will prove to be a big benefit for his fledgling talents.
‘We’re in a tough group against the teams we have been drawn against,’ he added.
‘It is a great opportunity for the young players at this football club to play against those calibre of sides.’