Timely return for Ryan Williams while Anton Walkes' Portsmouth future could be in midfield after Norwich under-21s display

Sports writer Will Rooney picks out the talking points from Pompey's 3-1 Leasing.com Trophy victory over Norwich under-21s...

Sunday, 15th September 2019, 2:00 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th September 2019, 7:55 pm

A timely return

Fans must have actually been starting to wonder if Ryan Williams had actually returned to Pompey.

Sign up to our Portsmouth FC newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

More than two months later, the Fratton faithful finally got a glimpse of him following his free transfer from Rotherham.

Williams was handed a 19-minute cameo on his second Blues debut – and displayed glimpses of his talent.

A low centre of gravity, the ability to shift the ball from side to side and someone always looking to positively create openings, he underlined the attributes he’ll offer this season.

He could have helped himself to two assists, slipping in John Marquis late on, but the striker missed both chances.

Anton Walkes in action against Norwich under-21s. Picture: Joe Pepler
Anton Walkes in action against Norwich under-21s. Picture: Joe Pepler

Nevertheless, it’s an encouraging sign how swiftly Williams linked with his team-mates, suggesting there’s already been a rapport built on the training ground.

With Marcus Harness sidelined for at least another two games, the former Fulham man has made a timely return to action.

A future in midfield for Walkes

Kenny Jackett weighed up an extra central midfielder on deadline day but decided against it.

Ryan Williams made his second debut for Pompey against Norwich under-21s. Picture: Joe Pepler

With Bryn Morris sidelined, the boss wondered if he was a body light in the engine room.

However, if Jackett does feel he needs someone to do a job in the middle of the park then Anton Walkes looks more than capable.

The former Spurs man endured a difficult start to the season in a right-back role.

Despite being blessed with blistering pace, he struggled when required to join in with attacks.

Pompey celebrate Josh Flint's goal. Picture: Joe Pepler

But with James Bolton now almost up to speed and Christian Burgess catching the eye in the makeshift role, it could free Walkes up to operate in midfield more frequently.

There’s a strong case that his best games – against Walsall and Wigan during the 2017-18 season – were his best in a Pompey shirt.

Against Norwich, Walkes shielded the back four superbly. His tackling and tenaciousness helping break down a Canaries side that shifted the ball on the deck with pace.

In possession, too, the 22-year-old was comfortable and was involved in the move that culminated in Ellis Harrison’s second goal.

It came after his encouraging display off the bench at Blackpool when Jackett felt Walkes helped change the game.

So while he has struggled in defence, Walkes’ future could well reside policing the middle of the park.

Bright future ahead

It was all about the youngsters on Saturday.

Four of them in total played - and all did themselves no harm at all.

Leon Maloney had already marvelled against Crawley in the previous game and carried on where he left off.

The tricky Isle of Wight winger showed plenty of guile throughout the first half, getting to the byline and delivering several dangerous crosses.

But it was his assist for Ellis Harrison’s opener which was the most intelligent. Instead of going for glory, Maloney’s nous to nod back across goal gave his skipper an easy finish.

The breakthrough stemmed from a fine Eoin Teggart cross – the rhetoric for the afternoon.

The Northern Ireland youth international was a menace down the left flank, highlighting he not only has rapid pace but the delivery to boot.

Another of his centres led to Josh Flint’s debut goal. The Waterlooville lad's intelligence was apparent from kick-off and he was rewarded when he bagged in the 44th minute.

That wasn’t his only contribution, though, with the former Crookhorn College pupil teeing up Harrison's second with a pinpoint through ball.

And then there was Joe Hancott, the youngest player in Pompey's post-war history making his second outing after placing himself into the record books.

Composed and assured at left-back, he should take confidence from his display.