Pompey Academy went top of their Alliance League Cup group after a 1-0 victory over Aldershot at Eastleigh this morning.
Now, with just Crawley left to play to ensure a place in the latter stages of the competition, Andy Awford’s team will bid to keep up their form when they face Southend United in an FA Youth Cup tie at Fratton Park this Friday evening.
And perhaps birthday boy James Hartson - 18 today - can do the same as he did against an Aldershot defence that he ran ragged before blasting the only goal of the match on 75 minutes.
Having met a superb pass from Lewis Horsburgh to beat Aldershot keeper Luke Williams, Hartson became one of three players that Awford decided needed to be rested up ahead of the FA Youth Cup tie, the others being skipper Josh Warren and Nick Awford.
In their place from the substitutes’ bench came three of coach Alan McLoughlin’s under-16 side - Fahad Rwakarambwe, Lewis Gill and Chad Field - all of whom fitted in comfortably to see out the final 15 minutes of an entertaining contest.
Better fortune could have seen far more goals scored only for less-than-convincing finishing, plus several fine saves by Pompey’s Conor O’Hara and Aldershot’s Williams respectively, ensured one goal would win the match.
Irishman O’Hara produced the goods early on by saving a one-on-one situation with Aldershot striker Harry Cooksley, who looked odds on to open the scoring after Warren allowed the ball to slip away from him.
Then late on, and with Pompey hanging on desperately to their slender lead, O’Hara’s safe handling became a feature, as was another save from Steve Gonzalez at point-blank range.
And while Hartson can take much of the credit for his balanced performance, so too can the remainder of Awford’s side who had just enough about them to take the three valuable points needed to top their group.
Alliance League Cup group match
Pompey Academy 1 (Hartson)
Aldershot Academy 0
Pompey Academy: O’Hara, Close, Triggs, Awford, Warren, Whatmough, Tarbuck, Branford, Hartson, Kim, Horsburgh. Subs: Rwakarambwe, Da Costa, Gill, Field, Chaplin.
Aldershot Academy: Williams, Graosvenor, Gerrard, Dickens, Bruce, Webbe, Gonzalez, Blair, Beekley-Richards, Cooksley, MacDonald. Subs: Halliday, Cobb, Murphy, Rudolph.