Christian Burgess and Brett Pitman show they're up for Portsmouth battle while there're encouraging signs in youth department
Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey XI’s 2-1 win at Bognor.
Burgess hot on the heels
One of the longest-serving players in Kenny Jackett’s squad has again found himself down the pecking order.
The Pompey boss has started pre-season with summer recruits Paul Downing and Sean Raggett as his preferred centre-back pairing, after they started against UCD and the Hawks.
That’s forced Christian Burgess to drop down to third choice.
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It’s not the first time the former Peterborough defender has found himself in such position at Fratton Park. He was confined to the substitutes’ bench behind Matt Clarke and Jack Whatmough last season before the latter suffered a long-term knee injury.
The magnificent form Burgess finished the failed League One promotion bids means he might feel slightly aggrieved to have been leapfrogged in the pecking order so early in the summer.
However, he’s wise enough to know the only way of wining back a berth in Jackett’s side is by delivering on the pitch.
His performance against Bognor underlined he’s snapping at the heels of Downing and Raggett in pursuit of a starting spot against Shrewsbury on August 3.
Burgess commanded the defence in the first half and his positioning limited the Rocks to limited opportunities.
When the hosts took the upper hand in the second period, the 27-year-old made two immaculate challenges. First was a superb sliding challenge on Dan Smith on the edge of the box, before he timed his perfection to dispossess Liam Brady inside the area with a minute remaining.
One thing seems clear – Burgess is up for the battle.
Another friendly, another goal for Brett Pitman.
The captain’s 34th-minute strike marked his fifth goal in three matches this summer.
Slipped in by Haji Mnoga, Pitman’s angled drive rifled home to find the far corner.
For the second game on the bounce, the former AFC Bourenmouth forward proved to be Pompey’s match-winner, after also coming off the bench to net the decisive goal at the Hawks on Saturday.
Pitman could well have had a second hat-trick of pre-season – after notching a treble in the 11-0 romp at UCD – against Bognor.
He struck the crossbar twice, while he also had a couple of efforts that weren’t that far away in his first-half cameo.
There’s little doubt Pitman believes he should be in Kenny Jackett’s starting XI week-in, week-out.
That’s the opinion of large sections of supporters as well, with the 31-year-old the Blues’ strongest goalscoring threat.
And if he continues to deliver in the final third, Pitman will surely give his boss no choice but to hand him a place in his line-up.
Encouraging youthful signs
With the majority of Kenny Jackett’s squad given the evening off, a host of academy players helped make up the numbers against the Rocks.
Granted, as more of them were introduced for senior players in the second half, Bognor seized the initiative.
But with senior pros around them, the youngsters relished the battle.
Haji Mnoga made three appearances in the Checkatrade Trophy last term and supporters are well of aware of his prowess.
Starting a right-back, the 17-year-old displayed the pace and power Jackett wants from players and was a threat going forward.
Wingers Eoin Teggart and Leon Maloney also showed their rapid speed, with the former opening the scoring with a delightful finish after jinking his way past a couple of defenders.
And Gerard Storey, the 16-year-old recruited from Northern Ireland this summer, was confident in the middle of the park.
Never afraid to take the ball and demonstrating an array of passing, he looked comfortable at the level having already played senior football at Portadown.