SKIPPER Matt Smith saw his young Portsmouth & Southsea side suffer a tough return to the Hampshire League, as they were defeated by 35 runs at Alton II.
Smith, standing in for injured captain Paul Dew, led a young side into the division one clash.
Dew could miss six weeks with a knee injury but, even after the opening-day defeat, 21-year-old Smith is looking to the positives.
‘Our team is packed with promising youngsters including half-a-dozen promising teenagers,’ said Smith.
‘Last season we were relegated on the final day after not being able to get over the line.
‘Our aim now is to have a couple of years consolidating in the Hampshire League to give our youngsters the chance to get more experience under their belt.
‘Then we can aim to go back up into the higher level and make an impact rather than battle against relegation again.
‘We feel the future is bright for the club but we have to spend time adapting to our new surroundings and know it will take time.’
Alton were always going to prove tough opposition.
But Smith’s men made a cracking start after putting their hosts into bat.
Opening bowlers Alex Fletcher and Dave Tiller produced an outstanding opening spell, pinning Alton back.
After 10 overs the home side only had 25 runs on the board but a series of injuries rocked the visitors and swung the balance back in favour of the home side.
Matt Benfield bowled well, taking four wickets for 42 off eight overs but Alton II eventually set Portsmouth & Southsea a target of 244 runs.
‘We had them on the ropes early on but it is still very much a learning curve for us all and I felt we let them get 44 runs too many,’ said Smith.
‘Injuries didn’t help but we need to sharpen up in the field and not bowl too short.’
Portsmouth & Southsea’s reply got off to a bad start as they lost opener Matt Shaw without scoring and on a drying wicket the visitors were soon in trouble.
After 26 overs Smith’s side were 70 for five and their chances had virtually disappeared.
Fletcher and Smith refused to give it up, putting on 78 for the fifth wicket but they fell too far behind the required rate to be a threat.
‘We are determined to make the most of life in division one and are aiming for a mid-table finish,’ said Smith.
‘The team will only get stronger as the season goes on because we have injured players to come back, along with our Portsmouth Grammar School and university players.