Guy Whittingham believes his Pompey protégés were given a valuable lesson at Scunthorpe.
Now he is looking for them to kick on from last night’s second-half display and truly come of age.
The Blues suffered a 2-1 defeat at Scunthorpe – an eighth loss in a row.
An Akpo Sodje goal five minutes from time settled matters at Glanford Park.
Liam Walker’s sublime free-kick had earlier levelled Sodje’s header in a dreadful Pompey first half.
That opening 45 minutes prompted Whittingham to lay into the club’s youngsters, in particular, at the break.
Jed Wallace, Ashley Harris and Adam Webster were all on the receiving end in the dressing room.
The trio – with substitute Dan Butler – are an integral part of the club’s future.
Whittingham, though, was delighted by their response in the second half.
He said: ‘In that first half we couldn’t get out.
‘We sat too deep and we weren’t getting close enough to people.
‘One or two of the younger lads, I have to say, were thinking they were better than they are and forgot about the hard work.
‘And we let them know at half-time what being a footballer is all about.
‘Jed has done fantastically well since he came in – but there is another side of football.
‘Apart from going forward you have got to defend properly.
‘When you are under the cosh you have got to make sure you are defending properly and working hard – that side of your game. It wasn’t just him, Ashley Harris was the same, Adam Webster was the same and, to be fair, both myself and Andy (Awford) did rip into them at half-time because you need to be told.
‘Credit to them, they have not sulked about it.
‘They took it on the chin and worked at it second half and it made a massive difference.’
For Pompey, it was Walker’s free-kick which lit up the performance at a damp Glanford Park.
The midfielder curled the ball into the top corner from 25 yards after Harris had been fouled. And Whittingham was full of admiration for that touch of class.
He added: ‘Liam gave us a lifeline with a fantastic strike.
‘On the bench we were stood up hoping he could pick one out – like he does in training weekly – and I am really pleased he did.
‘He practices a few and they don’t always go into the top corner but he is good at it.
‘From there that was set up for him, set up for his left foot.
‘Liam did fine overall but I don’t think any of them came out of that first half with any credit.
‘Gabor (Gyepes) did okay and James Keene ran around a bit but we reminded them of what they had to do as footballers and that was to work hard.
‘I think in the second half they certainly did it and they did not deserve to lose the game.’