Kelly salutes Pompey Academy's battling qualities
Mark Kelly saluted how Pompey Academy acclimatised to Stevenage's physical threat in their Merit League One draw on Saturday.
The young Blues battled from behind to clinch a point at the club’s Roko training base.
After falling behind midway through the second half, the hosts responded well and Leon Maloney netted the equaliser with nine minutes remaining.
Pompey had chances to clinch all three points, with Joe Dandy and Dan Smith missing decent opportunities late on but the game ended honours even.
Kelly revealed a draw was a fair reflection on the game.
He felt the Blues were second best in the early exchanges but praised how his troops rose to the challenge.
‘I think it was a fair result,’ said Kelly.
‘It was a good, enjoyable game and it was a different challenge for us.
‘They had pace and power and are a strong group together.
‘Generally, you get individuals who are strong – but as a whole Stevenage were.
‘We had to overcome their physicality early on and it was a good test for the boys.
‘They had the better of the early exchanges and we started a bit slower.
‘However, we got more physical and closer. In the second half, we took control but then they scored when we were on top.
‘We managed to get the equaliser and then we should have had two or three more.
‘Joe Dandy should have scored from a few yards out, Matty Mayes hit the bar and Smudge (Smith) put a couple wide.
‘It was a really good test and a really enjoyable game for different reasons.
‘Leon has got his goalscoring boots back on.
‘He causes teams a lot of problems – he has a lot of pace.
‘Josh Flint also did really well down the left. He’s had a lot of growth spurts but has got his control back and is starting to be consistent.’
Despite Matt Mayes returning from his loan spell at Gosport Borough, Dandy has been donning the captain’s armband in recent weeks.
Kelly believes the role dovetails with the Ascot-born defender’s qualities.
And he revealed part of the thinking behind Dandy skippering the side is because they are starting to plan for next season.
‘It’s a role that suits Joe,’ added the youth boss.
‘Within the group, he is quite strong and we’re looking ahead to next year.
‘It’s a good step up for Joe. He likes a challenge, he is a good leader and it has been good for him.’