Will Rooney looks back at Pompey’s 2-1 Checkatrade Trophy victory over Arsenal under-21s and assesses the main talking points...
Adam May moved to Aldershot on loan for one reason – to mature as a player,
And judging by his performance against Arsenal under-21s, he's reaped the rewards from that spell at the Recreation Ground.
The academy graduate returned to Pompey’s starting line-up and delivered a scintillating display – arguably his best for the club.
May ran the midfield for Kenny Jackett’s side. His range of passing was of the highest quality, swiftly switching the play with intelligence on numerous occasions.
The 20-year-old was a potent goal threat – in fact, his performance deserved one.
May’s 25-yard shot midway through the first half beat Dejan Iliev, only to rattle the Gunners keeper’s right-hand post.
In the second period he was again denied by the woodwork. May elegantly took down a high ball on his chest before cracking a 30-yard effort which this time cannoned off the bar.
He also caught the eye defensively, making a number of key interceptions when Arsenal did threaten Pompey’s goal.
In the 19th minute Tyreece John-Jules went to pull the trigger on the edge of the box, only for May to take the ball from the visiting forward’s boot.
The youngster will now be eyeing up a berth in Jackett’s League One side. He faces tough competition, especially with Dion Donohue soon returning from injury.
Nevertheless, he’ll be relishing the battle of trying to break into the Blues team.
CONVEYOR BELT CONTINUES
Kenny Jackett hasn’t been afraid of giving Pompey’s upcoming talents opportunities since he took charge as boss.
Joe Hancott became the club’s youngest-ever player, turning out against Fulham under-21s last season.
This campaign the boss has continued to blood in future prospects in the Checkatrade Trophy.
Seventeen-year-old Haji Mnoga featured in group games against Crawley and Spurs’ under-21s, while Academy forward Bradley Lethbridge was handed his debut in the latter fixture.
And against Arsenal under-21s, it was the turn of Matt Casey and Freddie Read to make their bows.
Both are unfamiliar faces to the majority of the Fratton faithful but delivered encouraging performances.
Casey made two important interceptions in the second period, reading the play well to cut out crosses inside the box.
The centre-back also displayed his quality on the ball. In the first half, he played a sumptuous ball over the top to release Anton Walkes on goal.
Read, meanwhile, showed composure in the engine room, keeping the Blues’ moves ticking over nicely.
The Academy midfielder from Southsea rarely put a foot wrong all evening, while he produced one excellent piece of skill after the interval.
Both will be hungry for more opportunities in the future as Pompey’s conveyor belt of producing fledgling talents continued to churn.
COMPETITION IS HOTTING UP
Prior to Checkatrade Trophy games this season, the rhetoric from Kenny Jackett and Joe Gallen has been clear: Players must take their chance.
The Blues’ starting XI has been virtually unchanged during the League One title charge and FA Cup progress.
That’s meant the likes of Christian Burgess, Brett Pitman and Danny Rose have had far fewer minutes than they’d have liked.
Nevertheless, every player that featured against Arsenal grasped their opportunity.
Burgess marshalled the defence superbly and made several excellent sliding blocks in the second half.
Brandon Haunstrup was a constant outlet down the left flank, while Anton Walkes also looked to power forward given any opportunity.
Rose was the experience the Blues needed in the middle of the park and Louis Dennis had the bit between his teeth. His reward was a deserved assist.
Pitman is the most substantial name to be confined to the substitutes’ bench this term.
No matter what game he plays in, though, the striker always crops up with goals.
Against the Gunners his instinctive 10th-minute finish broke the deadlock, while he played a clever back heel in the build up to Andre Green’s match winner.
Judging by Pompey’s second-half performance at Rochdale on Sunday, tired legs are slowing beginning to show.
If Jackett does opt to make changes in the league, he’s got players who are more than capable of coming into his side.