Bournemouth U21s 0 Portsmouth XI 1 - Leicester loanee George Hirst makes winning impact after challenged with rapid debut
George Hirst conjured up an assist 20 minutes into his debut as he enjoyed an eye-catching start to life at Pompey.
The Leicester City loanee was handed a swift maiden Blues appearance after hours earlier unveiled as Danny Cowley’s 10th summer capture.
He lined up with fellow newcomer Connor Ogilvie against Bournemouth under-21s at the Canford Arena this afternoon.
And while Ogilvie was part of a back line which registered a clean sheet, it was Hirst who created Pompey’s opener in a 1-0 success.
The 22-year-old was withdrawn at half-time, yet during his 45 minutes on pitch provided an intriguing glimpse of what he offers Cowley’s team.
Certainly it was number nine by shirt and number nine by nature, forming the focal point of Pompey’s attack, with Michael Jacobs operating behind.
Hirst’s height and physicality mark him as a first-team rival to Ellis Harrison rather than John Marquis on this initial showing.
No doubt it will raise questions about Harrison’s ongoing presence, particularly following strong interest from Oxford United over the summer which may not have yet subsided.
Still, Cowley now possesses a striking pool of Hirst, Harrison, Marquis and Gassan Ahadme ahead of Saturday’s start to the League One campaign.
And it was Hirst’s lay-off with teed up Reeco Hackett-Fairchild’s decisive goal on 20 minutes to record a 1-0 victory for the Pompey XI over the Cherries.
Cowley’s side consisted of six triallists, among them a newcomer in ex-Newcastle central defender Ludwig Francillette.
The others were goalkeeper Dan Gyollai, Renedi Masampu and Layton Ndukwu, with the final two unnamed.
Meanwhile, Cowley was finally able to involve Academy players following their recent return from isolation, with his bench made up of the youngsters.
Yet it was the bows of Ogilvie and Hirst which provided the most interest at a breezy Canford Arena.
And the pair’s contribution was encouraging enough, particularly having been at Pompey barely more than a day.
Cowley’s men threatened early on through a first-time Jacobs shot and then Hacket-Fairchild fizzed a fierce left-footed effort over the bar from outside the box.
The visitors took the lead on 20 minutes through a superbly-worked goal emanating from the triallist wearing number six.
From the left, he fed Hirst, who instinctively shifted the ball to his right, where Hackett-Fairchild was lurking to unleash a ferocious right-footed shot into the top corner.
The Blues had an opportunity to double their lead on the half-hour mark when Hackett-Fairchild found himself clean through.
However, he could only bend the ball into the keeper’s arms when he should really have found the net from such a promising position.
Another chance went begging when Hackett-Fairchild’s delivery from the right was headed back across goal by Hirst, only for Masampu to fail to connect with his right foot from close range with the net begging.
At the other end, Bournermouth’s skipper forced Gyollai into a decent save, with the Pompey triallist diving to his left to push out a shot.
Hirst came off at the break, replaced by Harry Jewitt-White, while fellow second-year scholar Izzy Kaba replaced Francillette at centre-half.
Gyollai also made way for another triallist keeper, totalling three changes at half-time from the team leading 1-0.
On 68 minutes, Jacobs was taken out by the Cherries goalkeeper charging out of his area, albeit with bodies around him to prevent any cards being brandished.
However, the resulting free-kick was crashed against the wall by Pompey’s skipper.
The game petered out, yet the visitors remained in control, never suggesting they would lose their first-half advantage as Pompey’s friendly programme ended on a winning note.
Pompey: Gyollai (46 mins Triallist), Johnson, Francillette (46 mins Kaba), Triallist, Ogilvie (75 mins Hughes), Triallist, Ndukwu (68 mins Gifford), Masampu, Jacobs, Hackett-Fairchild (68 mins Triallist), Hirst (46 mins Jewitt-White).
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