Why Mark Kelly was upbeat after Portsmouth reserves' 7-0 defeat to the Hawks

First-year scholar Charlie Bell tries his luck on goal against the Hawks. Picture: Colin Farmery
First-year scholar Charlie Bell tries his luck on goal against the Hawks. Picture: Colin Farmery
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Mark Kelly believes his Pompey reserves’ 7-0 defeat to the Hawks will prove a vital part of his youngsters’ learning curve. 

The Blues' academy chief was delighted with the exposure his side experienced in the Hampshire Senior Cup second-round loss at Westleigh Park.

No senior profeatured for Pompey, with Matt Casey the only member of Kenny Jackett’s set-up to be involved, and first-year scholars such as Harry Anderson, Charlie Bell and Harrison Brook were named in the starting line-up. 

In contrast, the National League South hosts fielded a strong side, with the likes of Alfie Rutherford, Sam Magri and Anthony Straker playing from the outset. 

And while the scoreline would suggest it was an evening to forget for the visitors, Kelly would have 15 games a season that were similar. 

Pompey’s youth boss said: ‘We enter these competitions to expose them and it is great.

‘It is the next level up. We talked about the pace and tempo and how they’ve got to move the ball when being pressed.

‘It’s part of their education. If I could, I’d have 15 games like that a season because that’s how you learn.

‘You have to get exposed to it, you have to feel it and they felt it.

‘It’s a great part of their education. Week-in, week-out, they’re a really good group and do well at their own levels.

‘But they were playing a proper senior team and the pace and tempo is what it is all about.

‘If I could have an opportunity, I would pick 10-15 games like that a season and let them go and feel it.’

Pompey went into half-time only 2-0 down before the Hawks began to dominate after the break.

Jonah Ayunga, currently the top scorer in National League South, did the damage by netting a second-half hat-trick.

Nevertheless, Kelly still regards it as a successful evening. 

He added: ‘The boys used the ball well in the first half and kept it in areas.

‘In the second half, they’re going down the hill a bit so are going to press quicker.

‘The boys have already been profiling the game, looking at little areas where it went on.

‘For me, it’s a brilliant part of their education. I’ve had a lot of their lads before Brad Tarbuck etc – and they’ve made really good careers for themselves.

‘It’s nice to the fresh boys to see what it’s like. The boys always want to win and do things right because they're great kids.

‘But until you get massively exposed to things, it’s the only way they’ll learn.

‘Was it a successful or unsuccessful night? In the long term, there’ll be more success than sitting here and thinking we were defeated.’