Hawks 0 Pompey 5

Triallist Ryan Bird took his chance to impress with two goals in Pompey's 5-0 pre-season friendly win at the Hawks   Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Triallist Ryan Bird took his chance to impress with two goals in Pompey's 5-0 pre-season friendly win at the Hawks Picture: Ian Hargreaves
Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey boss weighs up best attacking formula

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With two predatory finishes and a flock of puns over his surname, Ryan Bird introduced himself to Pompey.

The triallist from Burnham, watched by his parents sat in the main stand, was given 45 minutes to impress against the Hawks last night.

Tomorrow, Bird flies off on holiday to Spain, ruling him out of other opportunities to catch the eye against Bognor and Braintree.

It was an impact which had to be instant, particularly after fellow triallist Michael Bryan had earlier been shown the door by Pompey.

Certainly, 48 seconds was swift enough at a packed Westleigh Park.

Not long after, Bird would graze the inside of the post, while shortly before half-time he helped himself to another.

Goals ranked as opportunist rather than sublime, nonetheless a fine interview from the 24-year-old gunning to barge his way into the professional ranks.

Inevitably, Bird was the talk of the friendly, the eye-catching performer in a sea of Blues players thrown in for their maiden pre-season match.

In total, 22 were employed by boss Guy Whittingham – a different side for each half, from goalkeeper to striker.

Bird was one of three triallists, with defender Bondz N’Gala and midfielder Arnaud Mendy, plus the versatile Shaun Cooper – who was on loan with Pompey last season – also on display.

Liam Walker’s departure for Greece ensured his absence, while Liam Triggs was the only member of the development group used.

There were further goals after Bird’s half-time departure. Tom Craddock’s cross from the right headed past his own keeper by Hawks defender Ryan Woodford.

The former Pompey apprentice had attempted to steer the ball into Scott Bevan’s arms, only for it to instead loop over him.

It prompted Blues assistant boss Steve Allen to turn to Bird, now sat next to him in the stands, and joke how the striker could try to claim that one as well.

He had a point.

Bird’s first was a Woodford tackle which saw the ball ricochet off him and drift over the keeper’s head.

The second, on 41 minutes, was an inaccurate Jed Wallace half-volley which flicked off Bird into the net.

Nonetheless, goals they were and undoubtedly emphasised the talents of a prolific defender turned striker who racked up 45 goals for Burnham in Southern League division one central last season – an ability which suggests Blues fans haven’t seen the last of him.

Romain Padovani and Andy Barcham added goals in the final four minutes to conjure up a 5-0 scoreline which was harsh on the hosts.

It had been a good-natured meeting between the sides on a balmy summer evening attended by 3,009 supporters.

Earlier, Blues chairman Iain McInnes made a presentation on the pitch to his Hawks counterpart Derek Pope before kick-off in recognition of the Blue Square Bet South outfit’s offer of friendship earlier in the year.

The Hawks had agreed to Pompey ground sharing with them at Westleigh Park should they have failed to secure Fratton Park to play future matches in during their fight to stay in existence.

It was a gesture appreciated by McInnes and those at Westleigh Park, who applauded the presentation to the Hawks chairman.

When the match did get under way, Pompey would take the lead after just 48 seconds with a fortuitous goal.

David Connolly laid the ball off and Pedro Monteiro’s slide tackle sent the ball ricocheting off Bird and ballooning over Bevan.

An instant impact from the triallist – and he almost grabbed a second in the seventh minute.

Connolly glanced a cross from the left with his head and it flicked off Bird, grazing the inside of the right-hand post – only to be taken by the keeper on the line.

It was a fine start from the visitors and, moments later, Connolly dragged a shot wide of the left-hand post after winger Ricky Holmes had squared a pass.

The Hawks began to find a foothold in the match, though, and on 19 minutes Serge Makofo cut across youngster Triggs and squared a pass which Steve Ramsey met first time.

His powerful drive flew narrowly over the bar from just outside the box, and signalled the start of greater pressure from the hosts.

On 32 minutes the dangerous Makofo exchanged passes with Sahr Kabba, and the former wriggled into the box and prodded a left-foot shot just past the far post.

In their next attack, Kabba drove in a powerful effort which Pompey keeper Phil Smith did brilliantly to turn around the post as the visitors again wilted.

Against the run of play, though, the Blues increased their lead with 41 minutes on the clock.

A clearance fell to Jed Wallace, whose left-foot shot was not quite clean and bounced in the direction of Bird who flicked the ball into the net.

The half finished with Holmes firing in a shot which was well held by shot-stopper Bevan following a winding run down the middle.

Pompey made 11 changes after the break and, seven minutes in, Craddock dispossessed Jon McDonald to surge into the box, yet fired wide of the target.

The visitors had a scare in the 64th minute when a misjudgement from summer signing Joe Devera allowed Scott Jones to swoop, but the Hawks striker drilled a shot just inches past the far post.

In the 68th minute, though, it was 3-0 to Pompey when Woodford steered his header past his own keeper following Craddock’s cross.

Padovani headed home Dan Butler’s left-wing centre and fellow new-boy Barcham slotted home to add late goals and seal a 5-0 win.

But it was Bird – the man who had departed the pitch at half-time – who was the name on the majority of fans’ lips.