Portsmouth 0 West Ham U21s 1: Neil Allen's verdict - Finally EFL Trophy defeat - but youngsters can be so proud

Debutant Charlie Bell, one of a string of Pompey youngsters on display, is tackled by West Ham under-21s' Keenan Appiah-Forson. Picture: Naomi Baker/Getty ImagesDebutant Charlie Bell, one of a string of Pompey youngsters on display, is tackled by West Ham under-21s' Keenan Appiah-Forson. Picture: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Debutant Charlie Bell, one of a string of Pompey youngsters on display, is tackled by West Ham under-21s' Keenan Appiah-Forson. Picture: Naomi Baker/Getty Images
Finally conquered – after two years, 10 months and one day.

EFL Trophy specialists Pompey’s proud 16-match unbeaten run was halted by West Ham’s under-21s on the south coast.

A short-term setback, yet the Blues’ promising youngsters rolled out for the occasion offered plenty of encouragement for the future.

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The scoreline read 1-0 to the Hammers, with both sides having already qualified from the group stages for the next round of the Papa John’s Trophy.

However, a Pompey side consisting of six debutants, all produced through the Academy, can be mightily proud of their performance.

Granted, there was an absence of a cutting edge, with Jordy Hiwula on his full Pompey bow presented with little opportunity to shine.

Undeniably, though, the Blues’ youngsters grew into the match, gaining confidence and even some wonderful moments of skill to light up the evening.

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And in second-year scholar Charlie Bell, they possessed an impressive midfield performer nerveless on the ball with a touch of quality about him.

Throw in Harvey Rew at left-back and Eoin Teggart on occasions and there was much to be heartened about.

Bell, Harry Kavanagh and Alfie Stanley all started, representing their Pompey debuts, while current Academy trio Harrison Brook, Seok Jae Lee and Harry Jewitt-White came off the bench.

The game’s outcome was a first Blues defeat in the competition since January 9, 2018, when Chelsea triumphed 2-1 at Fratton Park.

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What followed was one Checkatrade Trophy win, another Wembley final still to be fulfilled and 1,036 days unbeaten.

The reigning holders are also still involved this season – with the next round taking place early next month.

Although defeat to West Ham means Pompey will have an away fixture.

None of those who started Saturday’s 3-2 win at Ipswich featured, with the Blues’ Academy providing the bulk of those on display at Fratton Park.

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Kavanagh, a right-back currently on loan at Gosport this season, led the fresh faces in the starting XI.

Alfie Stanley and second-year scholar Charlie Bell were also given maiden first-team outings.

In addition, Harvey Rew and Eoin Teggart, who appeared in the competition last term, found themselves in the side against the Hammers.

Crucial experience was supplied by skipper Paul Downing, James Bolton and Bryn Morris, with Alex Bass in goal.

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While striker Jordy Hiwula was given his full debut following his arrival as a free agent last month.

As for Pompey’s bench, it was also well-stocked with youngsters, containing six first-year scholars - Alfie Bridgman, Harvey Hughes, Seok Jae Lee, David Setters, Harry Jewitt-White and Harrison Brook.

Completing the substitutes was Duncan Turnbull, the American keeper who has also sat on the Blues’ first-team bench this season.

Unfortunately, Pompey found themselves behind inside the opening four minutes, following a well-worked goal.

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Emmanuel Longelo found a path down the left and pulled back a cross from the byline, which was struck first time by Corbett and past Alex Bass.

The Blues’ youngsters had barely found their stride, yet were already trailing and facing a stern test of their character.

Teggart was seeing some on the ball on the left in the opening exchanges and he won the game’s first corner on 12 minutes.

Kavanagh delivered the flag kick, but it was cleared at the far post with Blues heads challenging.

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At the other end, Bolton’s attempted clearance was blocked, the ball finding its way to Corbett in another dangerous position inside the box.

However, Downing flung himself in front of the ball to distract the youngster, whose shot screwed horrifically wide of the intended target before picked up by the hosts.

On 18 minutes, Kavanagh dispossessed Longelo down the right and took a pause to deliver a measured cross, but no Pompey player had made the run to the far post to capitalise.

Then Teggart sent in a deep cross from the left which was met by a Kavanagh header and taken in a sprawling dive by keeper Nathan Trott.

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Yet the Hammers looked dangerous in attack and when Bernardo Rosa was slipped in down the right with a sublime pass, he elected to drive a cross across the face of goal rather than pick out a man.

Hiwula, who had yet to truly get involved, did well to dispossess Ben Johnson to launch an attack 25 yards from goal, although to be brought down.

Morris stepped up for the free-kick yet only succeeded in hammering it against the wall and the moment petered out.

Stanley then battled his way through, winning two tackles, to find himself free down the left, but his attempted pull back to the lurking Hiwula was blocked.

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With half-time approaching, Pompey produced their best move of the game so far, with Bell feeding Hiwula on the left and the striker cutting inside only to see his shot blocked by Trott’s feet.

When the teams returned after the break, Morris’ clever pass almost found Hiwula with just the keeper to beat, but Trott got there first.

At the other end, Oladapo Afolayan flashed a shot across goal from the right when he was better placed to pick out a team-mate with a pass.

Mnoga collected Pompey’s first booking on 65 minutes with a foul just outside the area down the right.

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Moments later, the Blues made a double substitution, with Harrison Brook and Harry Jewitt-White replacing Stanley and Kavanagh.

The youngsters were looking comfortable, visibly growing in confidence as the game progressed, yet were struggling to carve open West Ham.

An opportunity did fall to Bolton on 80 minutes, however, although the defender’s left-footed shot on the turn whistled just over the bar.

That represented the final opportunity to claim an equaliser as Pompey’s record was finally broken – yet participation in this year’s competition continues.

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