Mark Kelly drew breath after Pompey Academy’s last-minute defeat at Southend United and revealed: I can’t fault my team.
The young Blues fell to a 3-2 loss in an entertaining Merit League One clash at the Shrimpers’ Boots & Laces training ground on Saturday.
Pompey twice battled from behind against Ricky Duncan’s troops through Bradley Lethbridge’s fifth goal in three games and schoolboy Stan Bridgman’s second strike in as many matches.
With the game locked at 2-2, the visitors pressed their foot on the gas and had their tails up as they pushed for three points.
The Blues couldn’t find a way through, though, and the hosts netted a stoppage-time winner after hitting Kelly’s side on the counter-attack.
Despite returning to the south coast empty-handed, Pompey’s youth chief saluted his fledgling talents.
Kelly said: ‘It was an interesting game and we had some good control.
‘Southend were their usual big, strong self and were very direct.
‘We had to work hard at keeping our shape and keeping the ball.
‘The lads did it very well and dealt with the physicality.
‘We played some really good football and got ourselves into some really good areas.
‘There were good deliveries and I couldn’t fault anything.
‘For 20 minutes, it was non-stop onslaught.
‘Southend were clearing balls off the line and their goalkeeper made some really good saves from Matt Casey, Dan Smith and Alfie Stanley.
‘They were literally pinned into their final third.
‘To be fair to them, they defended fantastically.
‘With the amount of control we had towards the end, we should have had five really.
‘I had a chat with their academy manager Ricky Duncan, who I’ve known for a lot of years.
‘He said “that was much of a smash and grab as you’ll ever see” but I said to him when you defend like that you give yourself half an opportunity.
‘We couldn’t fault the boys’ application and did things and tried the right things in the right areas.’
Pompey host Exeter City at Furze Lane on Saturday (11.30am).
Kelly wants to see his troops get back to winning ways.
‘The boys want to win every time they play and we throw them challenges to see if they can get to that point,’ he added.
‘Exeter are a very good side – they’re a good team.
‘It will throw up some good stuff for the boys.
‘Now it’s about lads trying to implement all the right things.’