Pompey Academy on the ball with goal-kicks

Pompey Academy keeper Nick Hall Picture: Neil Marshall
Pompey Academy keeper Nick Hall Picture: Neil Marshall
Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

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The passing philosophy favoured by Paul Cook’s Pompey team is being replicated by the Blues’ Academy set-up.

And ahead of Saturday’s under-18 Merit League season finale with Luton at Furze Lane (11am), coach Mikey Harris has reiterated his desire to see his side on the front foot at all opportunities.

That includes goal-kicks, with a noticeable feature of their play this term being a willingness to play out from the back.

It is a strategy Harris accepts is not without risk, as seen last weekend when a few nervy moments were endured in the narrow defeat to Exeter, with bobbling balls and a high line from the Grecians combining to rush the usually-unflappable Blues defence.

None of the three goals conceded in the 3-2 defeat came as a direct result of a misplaced goal-kick.

But with concerns over the Furze Lane surface, Pompey’s youth-team coach insists the decision on whether to go short or long rests on the shoulders of the goalkeeper in question.

The Blues, for that part, are blessed with two confident ball-playing stoppers – not least Nick Hall who has played outfield this term.

Alex Bass, who has spent a large portion of this season as part of Cook’s first-team squad, is also a cool customer with the ball at his feet.

It is a quality Harris believes will hold both in good stead in the modern game.

He said: ‘Short goal-kicks have been coming in a lot over the last few years, particularly at the higher levels and you see it a lot on the continent.

‘Teams look to play out from their goalkeepers, who are now having to become very, very good with the ball at their feet.

‘We are fortunate now that we have two goalkeepers who are very good with the ball at their feet.

‘It is something we try to do but it is not something we force them to do.’

But should conditions force them to abandon their preferred style of play against Andy Awford’s Hatters side, Harris insists the Blues are ready for a scrap.

He added: ‘That’s the weigh-up.

‘We never dictate to the lads that they must play out but they always look to do that, if possible.

‘I don’t make excuses for them and it is the same for both teams, but at the moment the pitch is not conducive to playing out, it is very dry and very bobbly

‘It may become more of a scrap and more of a battle but that is League Two football.’

Skipper Calvin Davies (foot) is ruled out for the season finale, with Jez Bedford (shoulder) a doubt.

Harris must decide whether to start Bass or Hall in goal.

– JEFF MARSHMAN