CONOR CHAPLIN reacted in the perfect manner to his first-team omission last weekend.
That is the view of Pompey Academy coach Mikey Harris, who saw the young striker claim a predatory hat-trick in his side’s 4-1 Merit League 1 victory over MK Dons at Furze Lane.
Eighteen-year-old Chaplin was an unexpected face in the youth team’s starting line-up on Saturday after he was named on the bench for Andy Awford’s side in the 2-2 draw with Cheltenham Town in League Two last Tuesday night.
And having followed that up with a well-taken double in last Wednesday’s 6-1 reserve-team thrashing of Gillingham, many expected the youngster to be among the Blues’ squad at AFC Wimbledon.
Instead, Chaplin returned to the youth team – where he started the season.
And he was quickly back among the goals as the hosts ran out comfortable winners, with Brandon Joseph-Buadi also on target in the win.
Harris said: ‘We were delighted to have Conor involved with us.
‘The decision came about because he hasn’t had a huge amount of football lately and the gaffer (Awford) felt he needed some more minutes under his belt.
‘He played in the reserves last week and obviously scored two for them.
‘But myself and the manager had a conversation about it and he then chatted to Conor.
You are looking for a response to that challenge of stepping back into the youth-team environment. And boy did he respond to that positively last weekend.Mikey Harris
‘Awfs said to him: “I know you are going to think this is a bit strange but go and have a game with the youth team”.
‘So, what are you then looking for from your player?
‘You are looking for a response to that challenge of stepping back into the youth-team environment.
‘And boy did he respond to that positively last weekend.’
Harris believes Chaplin’s performance will have sent out the right message to Pompey manager Awford, who favoured experience over youth in the Blues’ 1-0 defeat at Kingsmeadow.
Harris said: ‘I’m sure he will be knocking on the gaffer’s door again this week.
‘I think the plan was that away at Wimbledon – a tough place to go – the gaffer wanted to go with a bit more experience for that sort of game.
‘That’s the gaffer’s decision and we are always delighted to welcome Conor back to the group.
‘The great thing is – and it is credit to him – he just slots straight back into the group.
‘There’s no “I’m a first-team player” about him.
‘His attitude and everything about him is spot-on, he has a great relationship with all of the boys.’
Chaplin will hope to have done enough to be involved with the senior side this weekend as they host high-flying Shrewsbury in League Two (3pm).
The Academy, meanwhile, travel to Exeter (11.30am).