Stevenage 1 Pompey 2

Conor Chaplin in action against Northampton. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey’s Checkatrade kick-off time rescheduled

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Swindon continue to drum their fingers impatiently on the table next to an uncashed cheque.

Elsewhere, Cheltenham may have to take down the welcome banners and deflate those balloons.

Both clubs have been made to wait over Matt Ritchie and Nadir Ciftci respectively.

The clock is ticking down, the sighs of frustration audible above the Fratton station hubbub.

Yet don’t expect those little matters to be resolved to either club’s satisfaction in the near future.

You see, Ritchie and Ciftci are needed at Pompey, right here, right now. Nowhere else.

And last night they proved just why potential switches elsewhere have yet to materialise as Steve Cotterill looks to ring every last drop of talent out of his squad.

Ritchie has been the subject of a bid which could rise to as much as £200,000.

It’s an offer that’s been on the table for around three weeks now.

As for Ciftci, the promising forward was earmarked for a loan spell at Cheltenham, starting at the end of last week.

That temporary switch has since been put on hold in a case of needs must for Cotterill.

He can ill-afford to lose any more of his players at a time when the procession of exits continues and entrances remain few and far between.

Sure enough, with his sparse squad robbed of injury-victim Tommy Smith and international-bound Aaron Mokoena at Stevenage last night, the youngsters were both named in the side.

For Ciftci it was a full debut, for Ritchie only his third-ever Pompey start.

The in-demand duo subsequently turned in outstanding performances to inspire the visitors to a 2-1 Lamex Stadium success.

How Swindon and Cheltenham must have been wincing while sat at home in front of the television watching the Carling Cup clash.

On this form, neither will be allowed to tip-toe out of Fratton Park.

Granted, this was League Two opposition here – the newest members of the Football League following their promotion from the Blue Square Premier, in fact.

Ultimately, Pompey achieved what was expected by dismissing Graham Westley’s side in an entertaining match.

Nonetheless, it was a win all the same and at the very heart of it were two youngsters who remain unsure whether they will even be here next week.

Yet Cotterill is a firm admirer of both and, following their Stevenage display, it is easy to see why.

The Gosport lad and teenage Dutchman stole the show and in the process sent out a firm reminder they are very much part of the Blues’ future.

With Tommy Smith aggravating the back problem which blighted his pre-season, Ciftci was granted his full competitive debut.

As for Ritchie, he once again continued in the unfamiliar left-back role with such a criminal lack of options at Cotterill’s fingertips.

How fitting it was then that the pair should be involved in the visitors’ eighth-minute opener.

Ritchie’s corner came in from the right and there was Ciftci to steer a free header into the net for a goal on his full debut.

The Dutch under-18 international had already drawn the ire from home fans after a clash with left-back Scott Laird.

The strike did little to improve their attitude towards him as it was greeted by a cascade of boos, not that it bothered him.

As for Ritchie, he went on to turn in his most complete Pompey display yet – in defence as well as attack.

Naturally a left-sided midfielder, the 20-year-old delivered some timely slide challenges while used the ball down the flanks accurately

and effectively.

Once such move saw him release John Utaka in the 30th minute and the Nigerian’s square pass should have given Ciftci a second goal.

Unfortunately, the youngster suffered the flip side of the coin as he skied embarrassingly over from just six yards out.

Of course, before then Stevenage had snatched an equaliser when Darren Murphy fired in a low 35-yard drive which took a generous deflection to sneak into the net.

It was another starlet, Joel Ward, who conjured up what would prove to be the match-winner on 36 minutes.

His cross from the right was brilliantly met by the diving head of Michael Brown to cap a superbly-crafted goal.

After the break, the game continued to entertain, although not quite perhaps for David Nugent, who spurned a total of two one-and-one opportunities.

Yet, overall, it was a pleasing display for an understandably upbeat Cotterill, marking his first victory since clambering into the Pompey hot seat.

After a disappointing defeat at Coventry on the opening day, it was precisely what the doctor ordered in a tough encounter.

This from a squad with just four substitutes – all of whom were teenagers.

Not that age is necessarily a barrier, of course. Just look at Ciftci and Ritchie.

But expect Swindon and Cheltenham to come collecting very, very soon.

After all, they know they are on to a good thing when they see it.