Pompey hoping St Mary’s jitters can work in their favour

Ben Close in action during the win over Barton Rovers in the last round Picture: Mick Young
Ben Close in action during the win over Barton Rovers in the last round Picture: Mick Young
Matty Kennedy. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey 1 Southend 0: They said what

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Pompey are banking on St Mary’s nerves hampering their hosts as they attempt to pull off a south coast derby shock.

Andy Awford’s youngsters head to Southampton tonight as the underdogs in their third-round FA Youth Cup clash (7pm).

The much-admired Saints youth set-up continues to produce first-team players in the Premier League and has been recognised with Category 1 status.

In contrast, the Blues lack scouting resources and top-of-the-range facilities while being attached to a club currently in League Two.

However, Academy coach Paul Hardyman remains upbeat over his side’s chances of pulling off what would be a surprise win in what is anticipated to be a decent St Mary’s crowd.

He also believes home advantage may even overawe a Southampton team playing their first FA Youth Cup game of the campaign.

‘These are the games you come into professional football for,’ said Hardyman.

‘With the FA Youth Cup, we talk about it as the equivalent of the Champions League. You get to go up against the best in the country, and with that there can be surprise results.

‘The competition also brings out a lot of nerves and it’s how those players cope with those nerves.

‘This is Southampton’s first game in the competition this season. It’s a different scenario playing in a stadium in front of a lot of people – whereas we have played twice already.

‘I remember us going to Bolton last season. They were undefeated for 14 matches and after 80 minutes it was 1-1. Although, they won 2-1 in the end.

‘Our lads didn’t show too many nerves up there – if anything, it was Bolton who felt it more than us and you could see that in their game. It affected them.

‘Hopefully, the Southampton players will have a few jitters playing in a stadium and in front of a crowd tonight – it can happen.

‘We will be going there with a real positive attitude to produce a good performance and hopefully that can end in a good result.

‘We are definitely not heading there with an objective to contain them. We want to play and give a good performance.

‘It will be tough. They have a great history of producing players but the staff here are also working hard to continue getting players through the system, like Asmir Begovic, Matt Ritchie, Joel Ward and Marc Wilson.’

The Blues Academy’s last defeat in all competitions was a 4-1 loss against Gillingham on October 12.

Since then they have picked up eight successive victories, conceding three goals in the process.

That run includes a 12-0 FA Youth Cup win over Moneyfields, while they defeated Barton Rovers 2-1 in the last round.

Hardyman added: ‘We have not lost since October, and the pleasing thing is we have not been quite at our best.

‘When we are at our best we feel we have a decent team.’

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