Mark Kelly paid tribute to Pompey Academy’s five-goal Merit League Two bow and insisted: It was a massive improvement.
The Blues’ youngsters were back to their prolific best on Saturday as they eased past the challenge of Dagenham & Redbridge in an emphatic 5-1 victory on the road.
A disappointing end to the Youth Alliance League south-west division saw Pompey’s under-18s enter the Daggers clash on a three-game losing streak.
But after calling for a response from his players, Kelly was delighted by what he saw in east London.
Dan Smith scored a double for the Blues, with Theo Widdrington, Jack Chandler and Jez Bedford all on target.
Kelly said: ‘The last few games hadn’t been so great so we asked for a massive improvement and we really got it on Saturday.
‘Reaction-wise we put a little bit more emphasis on the team and what they were trying to do at the weekend.
‘Some of the quality of play was excellent.
‘It was really free-flowing on a horrible pitch – the pitch was minging.
‘But the lads didn’t let that faze or bother them.
‘They made the right decisions in the right areas, defended really well and attacked with a lot of freedom, vibrancy and pace.
‘They scored some excellent goals – the cutting edge was back.’
Pompey Academy’s rout of the Daggers came via a change in system, with Kelly electing to field three at the back to give defender Matt Casey some much-needed game time, alongside Eddie Wakley and Ousman Saidy.
It was a decision that paid off for a number of reasons.
Kelly said: ‘We played a back three and the win came off a solid little unit.
‘The boys were told to make the right decisions and not leave any holes in areas and they would be fine – that’s exactly what they did.
‘Matt Casey has not had as much football and I wanted to concentrate on the three of them working together.
‘That was the reason for the change, I just felt he needed a bit more game time – and he was excellent as well.
‘The team tucked in well, dealt with what they had to and delivered a good performance.’
The Blues’ under-18s welcome Oxford United to Furze Lane on Saturday (11am) – but with a number of players expected to be involved in reserve-team action against Everton on Monday night, Kelly is excited to cast his eye over some of the under-16s he will call upon.
‘On Saturday we will have a lot of under-16s playing,’ added Kelly.
‘But we talk a lot about challenges and asking players to step up – that’s part of our system here.’