Pompey Academy title dream turns into nightmare

Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris Picture: Neil Marshall

Mikey Harris reflected on the unforgiving nature of football after seeing his Pompey Academy side suffer an unexpectedly disappointing end to their Youth Alliance League season.

With three games to play, Harris’ under-18s side had the south-west division title in their sights – knowing a winning end to the campaign would produce silverware.

A trio of defeats, though, left the Blues stunned as they dropped outside of the top five, surrendering their chance of playing Merit League football with it.

For Harris – who was keen to see his team earn the right to take on the best sides from the neighbouring south east division – successive losses at Plymouth, Exeter and Swindon were hard to fathom.

He said: ‘We have missed out on the Merit League.

‘It just shows you what a week in football can do.

‘We went into the Plymouth game with a three-game challenge to win them all and claim the title.

‘But three defeats in the space of a week mean that not only have we not won the league, we have also missed out on a top-five finish and Merit League qualification.

‘It just demonstrates how quickly things can change in football – that’s something the lads will need to learn from.

‘We have done a lot of reflecting this week and asked the lads to assess how they dealt with the challenges and added element of pressure.

‘Results will indicate they didn’t deal with it very well.

‘That’s something they need to learn from and improve on with their careers moving forward.

‘Because at this level, that is what it is about.

‘You can look at it as a negative and tell yourself: “I’m not good enough”.

‘Or you can say: “that’s a lesson I can learn from” and use that motivation to become better in the future.’

Pompey’s youngsters ended the season with a 3-2 defeat at Swindon – after handing the hosts a three-goal advantage at the interval.

For Harris, it summed up their campaign.

‘Results are results but the most frustrating thing is that the lads demonstrate their ability brilliantly in patches,’ he said.

‘Take the second half against Swindon – the lads were absolutely unplayable.

‘We created eight to 10 good chances and took two of them.

‘We came away winning the second half 2-0 and certainly being the better team – but were second-best by miles in the first half.

‘And that’s the frustration for both them and us as staff – we know the lads’ ability and what they are capable of.

‘If they are a cohesive unit, all in the right mindset and playing at their best, they can beat any team on their day.

‘But we just haven’t seen that on a consistent enough basis as a group this season.’

– JEFF MARSHMAN

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