Cheltenham Reserves 1 Pompey Reserves 3

The returning Ryan Taylor proved a thorn in the side for Cheltenham during his 45 minutes of action  Picture: Colin Farmery
The returning Ryan Taylor proved a thorn in the side for Cheltenham during his 45 minutes of action Picture: Colin Farmery
Pompey boss Kenny Jackett

Fratton bearpit can swing play-offs Pompey’s way

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With three minutes on the clock, Ryan Taylor had announced his Pompey return with a far-post header.

Full-back Brandon Haunstrup was the instigator, perfectly flighting in a delivery from the left flank.

The unmarked Taylor did the rest.

The Blues’ reserves had their lead at Cheltenham – and in the process the striker edged closer to first-team duty.

The 26-year-old came back to training on Friday having sat out four matches with a recurrence of a hamstring injury.

Yesterday afternoon’s fixture at the Robins’ Seasons training ground represented a first taste of action, with Taylor earmarked for the opening 45 minutes.

He responded with two goals in the first 18 minutes as Alan McLoughlin’s side ran out 3-1 winners in the opening group game of the Final Third Development League Cup.

The second was carved out in similar fashion – this time Conor Chaplin’s excellent cross providing the ammunition from the left.

Taylor rose above his marker to plant another header past keeper Matt Gould, capping a well-worked move.

Only three minutes earlier, Zack Kotwica had hauled Cheltenham level after receiving Adam Powell’s through ball and finishing strongly.

Then up popped Taylor to complete a quick-fire start to the match and send an encouraging reminder of his striking talents back to Fratton Park.

With Pompey short of goals of late, it was a timely comeback for the striker who himself has netted only once in his seven first-team appearances this season.

Nonetheless, Blues supporters last term saw what the former Bristol City man is capable of and his re-emergence is unquestionably a boost.

With a trip to York on Saturday, Taylor has now delivered notice that perhaps he is ready to be considered for a return to Andy Awford’s senior squad.

He lined-up alongside triallist Victor Zapata-Caicedo for the clash at the Robins’ sun-drenched training facilities.

Zapata-Caicedo, who was born in Columbia and raised in Hackney, was released by Spurs in the summer of 2013, having come through their academy.

The striker was hoping to catch the eye as he turned out for the Blues and featured for the full 90 minutes.

Yet the youngster didn’t quite shine and failed to register too much of an impact on his Pompey bow.

Still, there were promising displays all over the pitch – not least from Chaplin, who in the 65th minute added a goal to his earlier assist.

A patient build-up resulted in substitute Bradley Tarbuck attacking down the right, and although his cross was almost forced home by Zapata-Caicedo, it was Chaplin who made the telling final touch – finishing at the far post to register an unassailable 3-1 lead.

For Tarbuck, it was a notable contribution on what would also be his return.

The Emsworth youngster had been on the sidelines since damaging ankle ligaments against Thurrock in a pre-season friendly back in July.

McLoughlin introduced the youngster at half-time in place of Taylor as he attempted to ease both back into the action following their respective lay-offs.

And the first-year professional can be delighted with his contribution during a second half the visitors continued to largely dominate.

There was also a 71-minute run out for Nick Awford as he continues his return following a shoulder injury, carrying on from when he faced Luton for the reserves last week.

And McLoughlin spoke of his delight with his team’s overall performance.

He said: ‘We kept at it and in the second half – apart from maybe a 10-minute period from Cheltenham when they looked a little bit threatening – we were in complete control.

‘It was really pleasing, particularly with the amount of youth players we have got that have come on and are progressing and making good ground.

‘They were supplemented by Adam Webster at the back, who was excellent, Ryan Taylor played 45 minutes, Ben Close and Nick Awford were superb and combative in midfield and composed on the ball.

‘So, overall, I was absolutely delighted with the exercise.’

Pompey: Poke, Davis, Webster, Field, Haunstrup, Maloney, Awford (71 mins Nilsen), Close, Chaplin (80 mins Rwakarambwe), Taylor (46 mins Tarbuck), Caicedo. Sub Not Used: Bass