An injury-hit Pompey Academy side went down fighting in their 3-2 defeat at the hands of Oxford United on Saturday.
With six senior players nursing injuries, Blues coach Paul Hardyman had to draft in a number of players from the under-16 side to help fill the void for the game at St John’s College playing fields.
And they all did the older set-up proud with some solid performances that matched the efforts of a strong Oxford side which included several young professionals.
In fact, Pompey surprised their visitors with a goal after only 16 seconds.
Korean Jae Heon Kim chased down a long clearance, got the ball to his feet and eased round U’s keeper Eddie Kavanagh to fire home an unexpected opener.
Unfortunately for the home side, though, the lead lasted barely 10 minutes as Oxford equalised.
A Jack Whatmough pass was intercepted by Muctari Conte who flighted a long-range effort over the head of stranded Blues keeper Charlie Searle from distance.
On 30 minutes, Pompey so nearly restored their lead when Fahad Rwakarambwe freed Bradley Tarbuck.
He lobbed a shot over the outstretched arms of Kavanagh, only to see the ball thump the top of a post.
Tarbuck then went close again with a well-struck free-kick that Kavanagh saved at the second time of asking.
But early in the second half, and with experience now favouring the visitors, all Pompey’s hard work was quickly forgotten when Josh Ruffles headed his side into the lead – a goal that was quickly followed by a third, this time from the head of Sam Long.
To their credit, though, Hardyman’s side kept going and they were rewarded with a second goal 10 minutes from time to set up a tense finale.
With Long awaiting an ambulance after falling heavily on his right ankle, Pompey youngster Brandon Joseph pulled a goal back with a fine effort.
That made the visiting defence slightly nervous but they managed to hold on to claim a hard-fought victory.
Pompey Academy: Searle, Close, Haunstrap, Tarasenko, Whatmough, Field, Haitham, Rwakarambwe, Tarbuck, Kim, Cook. Subs: Neilsen, Raine, Rutherford, Joseph, May, Chamberlain