Wilson’s Wisdom: Reserve football can be a crucial cog in the Pompey wheel

Kal Naismith scored a hat-trick for Pompey in a behind-closed-doors game last week    Picture: Joe Pepler

Kal Naismith scored a hat-trick for Pompey in a behind-closed-doors game last week Picture: Joe Pepler

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We were kindly granted exclusive access to Pompey’s behind-closed-doors game earlier this week.

That’s if you can call it ‘exclusive access’ when 30-odd fans were watching through the fence at the club’s training ground.

Up against what turned out to be the majority of a local non-league club’s under-21 development side – their first team had a Vanarama National League game later that same day – it left some wondering what was gained from a thrashing that ended 14 minutes from time with Pompey 11-0 up.

Kal Naismith did well and scored a hat-trick. James Dunne, playing at right-back, scored a sublime chip, Brandon Haunstrup impressed and Adam Webster was excellent at centre-back.

Matt Tubbs missed a couple of first-half sitters before scoring and then had a few lighthearted words with an exuberant celebration aimed at a harsh critic who had given him stick while peering through the railings.

The early finish to the match was apparently down to injuries among Eastleigh players but you can be sure that the scoreline had something to do with it as well.

Frankly, it seemed like the merciful thing to do and you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Eastleigh lads, who stuck to their task manfully in a cause that was probably lost in 10 seconds when Naismith scored his first goal.

Although it will have been a tough experience for them, they will have learnt some valuable lessons and deserve credit for giving Pompey a match when they could easily have cried off.

Blues boss Paul Cook has already admitted he made a mistake and was too hasty in pulling Pompey out of their reserve league.

In fairness to him, at times, the reserve matches must seem like a giant pain in the backside.

A few injuries at the wrong time and a lengthy away trip can put a major strain on resources.

Cook made the call at a time when he was planning to work with a streamlined squad.

With the Academy having their own programme, he simply didn’t feel he had enough numbers.

But things have changed and now he’s finding it difficult to give some of his players enough game time.

So it already looks almost certain that the reserves will rejoin their league for next season, which can only be a good thing.

Not only is it a vital stepping stone for young prospects to play alongside senior professionals and up against gnarled opponents, but it provides crucial competitive minutes for players.

Players outside of the first team need matches with an edge to show the boss what they can do or work their way back to full fitness.

Training games among club colleagues simply don’t cut it.

So preserve the Fratton Park pitch and spread the matches around the local non-league clubs (if they are keen to host them), charge a few quid for entry and then give any profits back.

Reserve matches tend to attract a particularly hardy bunch of supporters but there is real insight to learn when you scratch beneath the surface of the first team.

They are not everyone’s cup of tea, but they are certainly worthwhile and even if it’s 500-odd fans, it could make some welcome revenue.

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