Mark Kelly believes Pompey’s fledgling talents can put the lessons they learnt in defeat to Bristol Rovers Reserves to good use when they travel to Cheltenham on Saturday.
A young Blues Reserves side were beaten 1-0 in their Central League Cup curtain-raiser at the Pirates on Tuesday.
Alex Bass and Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain were the only professionals who featured for Pompey while Rovers’ side was mainly made up by players much more experienced than Academt chief Kelly and coach Mikey Harris’ troops.
The Blues found themselves 1-0 down at the break.
But a change in system ensured the visitors were much more competitive after the restart and Bradley Lethbridge and Matt Mayes both had decent opportunities to equalise.
After an encouraging second-half display Kelly is hoping his side carry on that form at Cheltenham.
He said: ‘It was an interesting day and a real learning curve for the lads.
‘The first half was a step up in tempo against a team mainly made up of under-23s.
‘We told them at half-time they were going to have to match their opponents and it was a lot better – we could have had one or two goals.
‘It was an educational game.
‘Had we had five or six pros it wouldn’t have been the same experience our boys learnt from the game.
‘After the game, we said to them the way they finished the second half they have got to start like that in the first half at Cheltenham.
‘We not only matched boys who were three years older but put them on the back foot.’
Pompey travel to Cheltenham on the back of five winless games including the Rovers loss.
The Blues’ last victory was a 5-3 win at Forest Green Rovers in August although there have been 1-1 draws at Bournemouth and against Exeter.
Although on the bare face on things it looks like Pompey have been out of form, Kelly revealed the Blues have been playing good football lately.
He is adamant nurturing his young stars along is more important than winning games at this stage of the career.
Kelly added: ‘Not only have we controlled games but we have played some really good football in them.
‘It is all about progress.
‘They are starting to get there and you can see that each day in training.’
– WILL ROONEY