Kelly pleased as Portsmouth Academy show resolve ahead of cup clash

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Mark Kelly saluted the character his Pompey Academy troops displayed to bounce back from their heavy defeat at AFC Bournemouth.

The young Blues delivered a 6-2 victory over Bristol Rovers at the club’s Roko training base on Saturday.

Stan Bridgman netted two for Pompey Academy against Bristol Rovers. Picture: Keith Woodland

Stan Bridgman netted two for Pompey Academy against Bristol Rovers. Picture: Keith Woodland

That came on the back of 7-0 thumping at the Cherries the previous weekend.

Kelly admitted the loss to Bournemouth hurt a lot of his players.

When holding an inquest into the result, the team’s slow starts to games was underlined as an area that swiftly needed improving.

The Blues did that against the Pirates, though, with Stan Bridgman’s double and goals from Leon Maloney, Josh Flint, Harrison Brook and Alfie Stanley leading their side to all three points. 

And Kelly was delighted with the performance his troops delivered as they recorded their fourth Youth Alliance southwest division victory of the season.

Pompey’s youth chief said: ‘When there’s four or five of you who start a few yards off the pace then you’re going to get punished.

‘When you fall behind it’s so difficult to get that rhythm again - that’s what happened at Bournemouth.

‘They got caught out and really felt it in the changing rooms.

‘It’s hard when you get beaten like that and the education around it is massive because it makes you realise if you don’t get what we talk about right then the wheels can come off very quickly.

‘It was an eye-opener. To be fair to that group, they haven’t met defeats like that because they’re strong and vibrant.

‘When things aren’t going right you’ve got to look at things and learn from them.

‘That’s a major part of youth development.

‘Over the week, we went through the first few games we’ve played and went over a lot of areas.

‘The biggest thing they came up with was we were starting games slowly.

‘We tend to start on the back foot and worked on that.

‘The boys went out in the first 20 minutes, set the tone and never looked back – there was some good stuff.

‘At the end of the day, a lot of the boys are getting used to playing two games per week.

‘We had an under-23s game at Plymouth the week before and play in the Hampshire Senior Cup tonight.

‘What they’re learning to do is just manage the environment, workload and volume.

‘The first years are just getting used to it.’

Kelly’s fledgling talents will make up the Pompey reserve side that travels to Andover New Street in the Hampshire Senior Cup second round.

Although the hosts sit bottom of the Wessex League premier division, the Blues’ youth boss reckons his players being exposed to the physicality of men’s football will be good for their development.

‘There will be physicality around it and they’ll have to deal with that regarding the technical way they want to play,’ Kelly added.

‘To be fair, in pre-season we played a lot of the local sides anyway, going over to AFC Portchester and things.

‘It won’t be any different, but it’s just a different environment and challenge - that is what football is all about.

‘We haven’t done it for a long, long time and we spoke about it.

‘Giving the boys different challenges can only be healthy.

‘Dealing with physicality is a major one and getting them exposed to that is a good thing.’