Midfield chance shows Awford’s progress

Nick Awford Picture: Joe Pepler
Nick Awford Picture: Joe Pepler
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Jamal Lowe. Picture: Mark Robinson

Pompey v Blackpool: pre-match talking points

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Nick Awford has been praised for a composed showing on his Pompey bow.

Awford was handed his first senior start at Stoke in the Capital One Cup last night.

The 19-year-old went up against Premier League quality at the Britannia Stadium in the 3-0 defeat.

But he didn’t let the occasion overawe him for a second as he grafted and made good use of the ball.

Holmes recognised that and reserved plaudits for the midfielder’s showing.

The winger acknowledged playing in a side led by his father could be an uncomfortable situation for Awford.

Holmes feels he showed he was in the team on merit against the Potters, however.

He said: ‘Nick Awford was excellent.

‘I pulled him after the game and I told him he didn’t get that because his dad’s the manager.

‘He got that because he warranted it. He deserved that shirt.

‘I think he had a bit of a tough time last season and didn’t think he should have been in and around it.

‘He’s got belief this season, though, and in training he’s been blinding every day.

‘It must be a hard situation for him and the gaffer.

‘But he held it together brilliantly and never put a foot wrong. I don’t think he misplaced a pass.

‘That is his job in the middle of the park, so he has to take full credit for that.

‘He deserved his first senior start.’

Awford’s steady progress has been recognised by him being on the bench in every game so far this season for Pompey.

His team-mates were also quick to acknowledge his form in pre-season, as he went about his day-to-day work.

He is certain to remember going up against the likes of Charlie Adam and the outstanding Victor Moses.

That will also be the case for the other youngsters in the team, as eight changes were made from the side which won at Oxford on Saturday.

Adam Webster and Jack Whatmough are still teenagers, with Dan Butler turning 20 – the same age as Jed Wallace – on Tuesday.

Holmes said: ‘Nick had a good pre-season.

‘I’ve spoken to him a lot and I’d like to think the younger players can speak to me.

‘He’s not here because of his dad, he’s here because of his ability.

‘He has to realise that and he proved it last night.

‘I’m sure he has a bright future, like all the young players here.’

Pompey found themselves up against it for long periods of last night, as Awford’s 12-match unbeaten run since coming into the job in March, came to an end. Stoke racked up 26 shots – with keeper Paul Jones making a number of fine saves.

The Potters made the breakthrough after 16 minutes and added a second two minutes after the restart.

But they had to wait until the dying embers of the game to get their third, as the visitors stayed competitive.

Holmes said: ‘I think it gives us confidence.

‘They have that quality.

‘But I think there are a lot of positives we can carry forward.’