Trial by jury as Pompey bid to unearth gem

Arnaud Mendy was back in Pompey action in the behind-closed-doors friendly at Aldershot, less than 24-hours  after coming on in the second half of Tuesday night's 5-0 victory over the Hawks
Arnaud Mendy was back in Pompey action in the behind-closed-doors friendly at Aldershot, less than 24-hours after coming on in the second half of Tuesday night's 5-0 victory over the Hawks
Conor Chaplin, left, and Brett Pitman Picture: Shaun Boggust

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The Aldershot Town Football Club Junior Soccer Centre provided the audition piece.

A total of 15 triallists, all but a few currently without a club, eager to please and desperate to impress.

Certainly a rare experiment performed by Pompey, yet hosted by the now non-league Shots behind closed doors.

Andy Scott’s side themselves consisted on players seeking to win contracts for a club with an increasingly-uncertain future.

Among them ex-Fratton Park apprentice Joe Oastler and Southsea youngster Jake Thomson – both free agents.

For the on-looking Guy Whittingham, though, it was about focusing on the Pompey squad and guaging whether they will be provided with another chance.

The current first-team set-up has few vacancies at present.

There will be no widespread employment following this interview.

Nonetheless, the challenge was to unearth a gem. It remains to be seen if that outcome, no matter how unlikely the chances, bears fruit.

Still, for the likes of Gosport Borough’s Nathan Ashmore, Dan Wishart (Hayes & Yeading) and Arnaud Mendy from Luton, an opportunity was handed to them in the subsequent 2-0 triumph.

Mendy had played 45 minutes only the night before in Pompey’s 5-0 victory over the Hawks at Westleigh Park.

And there he was again, drafted in at late notice following the 11th-hour withdrawal of Middlesbrough man Malaury Martin.

A post-midnight text sent to inform Pompey of his absence.

Former Northampton and Lincoln defender Adam Watts didn’t even turn up to a training ground which, admittedly, was difficult to locate for any newcomers.

There was no Jason Prior, either. The ex-Bognor striker played for Dartford on Tuesday night and believes he is homing in on a contract there instead.

Yesterday’s fixture consisted of three 30-minute periods, with a 10-minute break in the often-sweltering conditions between as the line-up was reshuffled.

Taken entirely by assistant manager Steve Allen and head of player recruitment Darren Simmons, Whitingham was freed to survey from the touchline, shades on and deep in thought.

He wasn’t alone. Gosport boss Alex Pike and Hawks manager Lee Bradbury were also instantly recognisable – as were Blues youth coaches Mark Chamberlain and Shaun North.

Pockets of spectators popped up on various banks, some with chairs, some with picnic baskets, a few with Aldershot shirts on.

Patrick Agyemang was also present having personally recommended a few of those on display in Jay Leader, Junior Appiah and Geoff Mitchell.

Completing the familiar faces on the sidelines were new first-team coach Alan McLoughlin, Alan Knight and chief executive Mark Catlin, forming a wall of scrutiny.

In terms of the game, two goals in the third period settled it.

The first was when ex-Wycombe defender Grant Basey delivered a corner from the left and there was the towering Leader with a thumping right-foot volley to send the ball into the opposite corner.

Before that, Aldershot had come closest to breaking the deadlock on the stroke of the first period when their striker drilled a curling right-foot effort which smacked against the far post.

Certainly, Ashmore was given little to do. Apart from the occasional safe handling, he was barely tested and unable to truly shine.

Victory was wrapped up five minutes from time, with former Chelsea forward Adam Phillip finishing at the far post following good work down the right.

A second Pompey victory then within 24 hours, with entirely different teams.

But just don’t expect to see the vast majority of those on display yesterday ever playing for the Blues again.

Pompey: Nathan Ashmore 6, Kevin Amankwaah 5, Grant Basey (60 mins Knight) 6, Jordan Knight 6 (30 mins Jay Leader 7), Dan Wishart 6, Jon Dollery 6 (60 mins Mendy), Arnaud Mendy 7 (45 mins Charlie Oatway 6), Loic Bouchard 7, Geoff Mitchell 7 (30 mins Junior Appiah 5 (60 mins Mitchell), Adam Phillip 6.