Mikey Harris watched on in dismay as his inexperienced Pompey Academy side were thrashed 7-0 at Exeter earlier today and admitted: It’s a steep learning curve.
The Blues travelled to Devon for the Merit League 1 division clash with an unrecognisable side from last weekend’s 4-1 win over MK Dons, owing to Thursday’s sensational 8-2 reserve-team triumph over Bristol City.
With 10 of the second string’s starting XI made up of youth-team players from the Dons thrashing, Harris was always going to make wholesale changes for today’s game.
That meant a number of 16-year-olds stepping into the firing line against the Grecians’ under-18s outfit.
Goalkeeper Alex Bass was the only survivor of the reserve-team win and skipper James Granger – who missed that game owing to traffic delays – the only second-year scholar on show, so it was always going to be a tough ask for the visitors.
But having trailed 2-0 at the break, the manner of the Blues’ decline was of concern.
Academy coach Harris was in no mood for excuses, though,
He said: ‘It (defeat) shows the under-16s who are coming into the scholars’ enivronment a really harsh experience of what they have to step up into in four months time.
‘Exeter are very strong side and a very good side, but for me today was a steep learning curve for those boys stepping up.
‘That’s not only for the under-16s but also the first-year scholars out there as well.’
Harris conceded his side’s inability to match their opponents’ surperior physicality played a part in the rout, as did his decision to stick with a new 3-4-1-2 formation – in line with the club’s philosophy.
He added: ‘The boys struggled with the physicality of Exeter.
‘The shape we are playing at the moment is new to them.
‘The boys need to learn it and if it’s a difficult experience for them first up then it’s still going to stand them in good stead moving forward.
‘So we stuck with it but that was probably a factor.’
POMPEY ACADEMY: Bass, (Hall, 60), Saidy, Granger, Yates (Green, 70); Scutt, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Widdrington, McDowell; Bedford (Tumber, 46); Woodward, Sayers