Birthday boy Haji Mnoga catching the eye in Portsmouth progress

The promising Haji Mnoga in action against Peterborough in the Checkatrade Trophy this season. Picture: Joe Pepler
The promising Haji Mnoga in action against Peterborough in the Checkatrade Trophy this season. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Birthday boy Haji Mnoga is coming of age as his Pompey progress matures.

That’s the verdict of Jake Wigley, who is delighted with the England under-17 international’s ongoing development.

Right-back Mnoga marked his 17th birthday by providing two assists in the reserves’ 3-0 victory at Bournemouth under-21s on Tuesday.

It was another eye-catching display from the ex-Trafalgar School pupil, who this season made three Checkatrade Trophy appearances

In October, Mnoga became the Blues’ second-youngest post-war debutant in the win at Crawley.

And Pompey’s first-team coach remains encouraged by the continuing improvement in the first-year scholar.

Wigley said: ‘I thought Haji was good against Bournemouth, he looked strong, looked quick, it appears he has got better on the ball.

‘The main one is technically he is getting better.

‘Physically he has that stature, athleticism and strength a full-back needs to get up and down the pitch.

‘But we are looking for more on the ball from him and during the last three months I have seen a big improvement, which is really important for him and his development. That has been the pleasing thing with Haji.

‘I felt his energy was good against Bournemouth, getting up and down the pitch, because we know he can defend, we know he can recover well through his athleticism.

‘In the final third his balls into the box and pass selection is now improving, so it’s pleasing being involved by assisting two goals.

‘He has another year of development in his scholarship and who knows what happens from there for Haji, but it has been a good year for him.’

Mnoga’s right-wing cross was struck first-time by Adam May for the opener in Tuesday’s match.

The defender then won a second-half penalty when bundled over by Tom Hanfrey, with Louis Dennis converting.

Another Academy youngster to shine was Bradley Lethbridge, whose precise pass created Dennis’ second goal – and Pompey’s third.

Wigley added: ‘Brad looked a bit fitter and stronger. Bognor has been of good benefit – as it has for other lads who have gone there.

‘Brad is a good physical size and it’s good to test him against stronger players, also bringing on his technical game.’