Pompey young guns aim for cup progress

Ryan Williams, left, scored twice in last year's FA Youth Cup defeat to Manchester United
Ryan Williams, left, scored twice in last year's FA Youth Cup defeat to Manchester United
Matt Clarke celebrates his goal at MK Dons. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Pompey Academy begin their challenge for honours in the FA Youth Cup when they entertain Bristol City in a third round tie at Fratton Park tonight (7pm).

And with home fans expected to virtually fill the south stand in support of coach Andy Awford’s under-18’s in a tie that must be settled on the night, everything points to an absorbing contest.

The two sides have already met in the Academy League this season at Bristol City’s training ground in early September as they shared a 2-2 draw.

In that clash, the Robins snatched a point with a late equaliser from Chris Abbott after goals from Ashley Harris and Sam Magri had looked enough to give the young Blues a deserved away victory.

Since then, however, both sides have not enjoyed the best of fortunes, although City returned to form at the weekend with a 3-1 victory away at Aston Villa, while Pompey were beaten 2-0 at Crystal Palace.

Current league standings show Pompey prop up the Academy League group A table with 10 points from their 14 matches.

Meanwhile, Bristol City have taken just six points from 13 matches in Academy League group B.

After entering the prestigious competition at the third round stage last season, Pompey were drawn away to Manchester United and found themselves three goals behind before Aussie Ryan Williams scored twice late on to make it a nail-biting finish.

City didn’t fare any better, losing 2-0 to Birmingham City at Ashton Gate.

Since then, however, Pompey have made changes at management level, with Awford taking over the reins from Paul Smalley.

And although results have been less than pleasing, the development of many of his current squad suggests the future looks promising with regard the production of players who can eventually become professionals at the club.

Now with the Fratton stage set tonight, it’s left for Awford’s side to keep their nerve and earn themselves a place in the draw for the fourth round.