Kelly: Portsmouth Academy have returned from festive break firing
Mark Kelly believes Pompey Academy have returned from their Christmas break firing on all cylinders.
The young Blues have picked up four points from their two games in the Youth Alliance southwest division this year.
Despite being without a number of key players who were on Checkatrade Trophy duty at Southend, they held newly-crowned champions Oxford United to a 1-1 draw last week.
Pompey then delivered a 1-0 victory over Plymouth on Saturday.
The Blues suffered a heartbreaking 3-2 FA Youth Cup third-round loss to Liverpool prior to the festive break.
Despite battling back from two goals down and dominating the second half, Bobby Duncan’s late goal cruelly dumped the visitors out of the competition.
Kelly admitted his fledgling talents took a short period to get over that defeat.
But the academy chief believes his troops have come back with the bit between their teeth.
‘Before Christmas we were very busy and the boys had a lot of games up to that point,’ said Kelly.
‘They’ve come back in the new year, started brightly and we’re looking forward to the next few games now.
‘After their disappointment against Liverpool, that took a bit of a while to get over and they needed the Christmas break to do so, really.
‘But they are ready to come back firing now.
‘It’s interesting at the minute because there’s a lot going on.
‘There’s obviously boys out on loan and a lot of them have been involved in the Checkatrade Trophy, which is still going on.
‘That will only continue as there are a lot of games in January and it’s about getting our heads down.
‘We’ve got a lot of games coming up and it’s very pleasing.’
Josh Flint scored the only goal of the game against Plymouth.
Pompey missed a number of good chances to put the game to rest, though.
And keeper Petar Durin – making his debut after completing a summer move from Italian outfit Atalanta – kept out a second-half penalty.
Kelly was pleased with his side’s performance, but insists they must take their opportunities in the future.
The youth boss added: ‘We created a lot of chances against Plymouth.
‘To be fair, their goalkeeper pulled off some great saves but we should have scored a lot more goals than we did.
‘At the other end when it was needed, Petar made a good penalty save and a few one-on-one stops.
‘To keep a clean sheet was pleasing as we’ve been known to let a few goals in.
‘The one little criticism I had was the goalscoring at optimum times and killing the game off.
‘We had to defend quite well for around a 10-minute period and at 1-0 anything can happen.’