Pompey Academy paid the price for poor finishing in a 2-1 defeat at Gillingham this morning.
The young Blues were also denied what looked a solid penalty appeal, with Bradley Tarbuck’s late effort not enough.
With the chance to feature in coach Paul Hardyman’s starting line-up for the visit of Bristol Rovers in the semi-final of the Football
League Alliance Youth Cup next Saturday, much was expected from a Pompey side still on a high after a superb 5-1 victory at MK Dons last weekend to reach that stage of the competition.
Even without several key players suffering from a virus, the Blues still had enough about them to take on a strong Gills side.
The hosts pushed forward looking for an early advantage and Pompey keeper Lewis Ward showed fine handling when dealing with Stephen Butcher’s fiercely-driven free-kick.
On 25 minutes, Tarbuck raced clear along the line to power in a cross that was dealt with by the Gillingham defence, before play broke quickly to the other end where Ward again showed his potential with a fine save from striker Aaron Millbank at his near post.
Just before the interval, and with no signs of the deadlock being broken, Gillingham’s Kane Haysman’s cross looked to create the best opportunity of the entire half but Pompey’s defence dealt with it as Josh Warren cleared in style.
But the home side struck twice in as many minutes when, moments after Nick Tarasenko had fluffed an easy opportunity to put Pompey ahead, Gillingham’s response was immediate as Millbank struck to put his side in the lead, before Josh Staunton managed to deflect a somewhat fortunate second past Ward from close range.
Down but far from out, Pompey must have thought it wasn’t to be their day when Jack Maloney was brought down in the Gillingham penalty area, only for the referee to wave aside seemingly justified appeals.
Still Pompey refused to accept defeat and after Maloney was roughed up again, Tarbuck stepped up to rifle in a goalbound free-kick that was deflected wide of a post.
Then on 75 minutes, Tarbuck gave Pompey a glimmer of hope when he calmly chested the ball down to swivel and fire a shot into the corner of the Gillingham net.
Late on, substitute Jae Heon Kim was presented with a glorious opportunity to equalise as he nipped in to meet a pass from Lewis Horsburgh, only to volley over from six yards, leaving Pompey to travel
home with nothing to show for their efforts.
Gillingham Academy: Nalder, Romeo, Kitt, Sellens, Butcher, Staunton, Coates, Blanchard, Millbank, Webster, Haysman. Subs: Arif, Hendricks, Armstrong.
Pompey Academy: Ward, Close, Medway, Awford, Warren, Triggs, Maloney, Tarasenko, Horsburg, Kim, Tarbuck. Subs: Branford, Field.