Pompey Academy exited the FA Youth Cup at the third-round stage with a narrow 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at Fratton Park last night.
A moment of individual brilliance settled the tie as Jamie Thomas collected his own backheel flick before coolly poking home under onrushing Blues keeper Alex Bass 10 minutes into the second half.
Far from being demoralised, though, Mikey Harris’ side, who began the clash against their Premier League under-18 counterparts as underdogs, assumed control of the tie and were unfortunate not to force extra-time.
Brandon Joseph-Buadi and Lewis Gill were both denied from close-range as the FA Youth Alliance League hosts laid siege to the Trotters’ goal in the closing stages.
But try as they might, the Blues were unable to find the equaliser their efforts deserved, though left the field to a rousing applause from a partisan 367 crowd.
Harris made one change to the side that beat Thamesmead Town 7-3 in the second round with Fahad Rawakarambwe preferred in the centre of midfield to Christian Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The hosts survived a major scare inside the opening five minutes when Adam May’s misplaced pass was seized upon by unmarked Trotters frontman Thomas.
But he fired over when well placed inside the Blues area.
Pompey grew into the tie as the half wore on and created their best chance on the half-hour mark.
Lively winger Joseph-Buadi’s marauding run saw him break into the box but his low centre was expertly cleared by Bolton defender Callum Spooner, ahead of the lurking Gill.
A similarly impressive run from the dangerous Thomas at the other end resulted in Tyler Garratt’s inviting cross being headed goalwards by Christopher Cvetko, although Bass made the save.
The Blues stopper then repelled Kieran Nolan and Cvetko again in quick succession as the hosts held firm to go in level at the break.
Harris’ side, who were second best in the opening period, dominated possession at the start of the second half but found themselves behind against the run of play.
Thomas expertly collected a long ball in his stride, running onto his own backheel flick, before coolly poking past Bass.
The Blues were agonisingly close to a leveller five minutes later when Gill latched on to Brandon Haunstrup’s header only to see his goalbound effort cleared off the line by Alex Honeyball.
Gill then turned provider for Joseph-Buadi who looked set to bring the Blues level from close range, only to be denied by a fine, sprawling save from Jake Turner.
James Granger was next to test the Bolton stopper, who was again at full-stretch to deny Pompey before visiting defender Matt Perry headed off the line at the death.
Pompey ACADEMY: Bass; Davies (Haitham, 85mins), Field, Nilsen, Haunstrup, Granger, May, Rwakarambwe (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 46mins) Chaplin, Joseph-Buadi (Sayers, 89mins), Gill
– JEFF MARSHMAN