Paul Hardyman has praised Tom Craddock’s strength of character following his giant step towards a first-team return.
The striker netted for Pompey’s reserves on Tuesday in his comeback from 13 months out with a career-threatening knee injury.
Perhaps more importantly, he completed 80 minutes and largely impressed with his all-round performance in the 3-1 defeat against Fulham’s under-21s.
It represented the latest hurdle safely negotiated for the striker, who has been restricted to just 11 appearances since his summer of 2013 arrival.
Onlooking first-team coach Hardyman was delighted with how the 28-year-old handled his comeback.
He said: ‘I am really pleased for Tom, it has been a real test of his character being out for so long and all credit to him.
‘For his goal, he received Ben Close’s free-kick just inside the box and under pressure from a defender swivelled and clipped the ball over the diving keeper.
‘It was a calm, casual finish with his left foot.
‘For someone who has been out for so long that must have meant a lot and I am sure he is also pleased to get 80 minutes under his belt.
‘Hopefully it will be the start of him back playing more regularly.
‘Overall, Tom was neat and tidy, receiving the ball into feet in tight situations and was able to take a few raps from defenders when doing so.
‘He has gone through the mental side of getting over the injury, building yourself up through from non-contact kicking a ball, then receiving under a bit of non-contact pressure and next going into contact.
‘But there is nothing better than going into a game and he will be buzzing.’