Pompey Academy crashed out in the southern area final of the Football League Alliance Youth Cup after a harsh 2-0 loss to Bristol Rovers at Westleigh Park this morning.
The hosts had plenty of chances and deserved more but were made to pay for not finding the back of the net.
With several key players returning to the starting line-up after missing the 2-1 defeat at Gillingham last weekend because of a virus, much was expected from coach Paul Hardyman’s young Blues.
They set about the task in a professional way and should have been a goal ahead early on as keeper Lewis Ward’s huge clearance was helped on by Ben Close and Lewis Horsburgh was in, only to fire a shot into the arms of Pirates keeper Matt Lacey from point-blank range.
And with Academy boss Andy Awford spending much of the first half watching before heading off to Fratton Park for this afternoon’s clash with Carlisle United, Pompey turned on the style, with Bradley Tarbuck sending a free-kick skidding inches wide of a post before Horsburgh and George Branford brought quality saves from Lacey.
Then on 29 minutes the visitors finally broke out of their half with a move that caught Pompey chasing shadows and striker Jamie Lucas beat a path through and blast his side into the lead.
Although a goal behind, Pompey still looked the better side and fully capable of getting back in the match. But the nearest they came to an equaliser before the interval was a shot from Jack Maloney that flew into the side netting - and a finish by Josh Warren that was ruled out for offside.
As the second half got under way, the young Fratton hopefuls wasted a wonderful opportunity to level when Close and Tarbuck opened up the Rovers defence and Horsburgh was in, only to lift a shot over from six yards with the goal at his mercy.
So great was the pressure that even defender Liam Triggs was able to add support to Pompey’s efforts and his pinpoint cross was met by Nick Awford who saw his header inch wide.
But moments later, Awford suddenly lost the ball and was unable to retrieve it before Rovers striker Lucas steadied himself to rifle a second from close range.
And as the ball hit the back of the net, all of Pompey’s hopes of silverware were over for the season.
Pompey Academy: Ward, Medway, Triggs, Awford, Warren, Whatmough, Maloney, Branford, Horsburgh, Close, Tarbuck. Subs: Chaplin, Field, Kim.
Bristol Rovers Academy: Macey, Southway, Greenslade, Keary, Anderson, Lockyer, Santos, Thomas, Lucas, Hunter, Kamara. Subs: Barra, Mondo, Douglas, Bryant, Ward-Baptiste.