Leon Maloney’s performance against the Hawks has given Kenny Jackett food for thought.
The Pompey boss was impressed with the fledgling winger’s defensive duties during the reserves' Hampshire Senior Cup defeat.
No senior pros featured for the visitors at Westleigh Park, while the National League South promotion-chasers fielded a strong side.
Maloney, 18, featured in a right-wing role for Pompey, meaning he came up against one of the Hawks’ standout players of the season, Anthony Straker.
The third-year scholar had few opportunities to go forward, especially in the second half as the home side firmly took control and put Mark Kelly’s youngsters on the back foot.
Jackett, who watched on from the stands, felt Maloney ‘showed a bit about him’ to track back and repel the attacking threat of former Southend and Motherwell left-back Straker on occasions.
And the Blues manager felt the Isle of Wight-born ace is capable of coping with the physical side of things against experienced players.
‘He did show a bit about him and showed a bit about him defensively to get a few tackles in,’ said Jackett.
‘Let’s be fair, they were on top in the second half and Leon accelerated and caught Straker a couple of times, stopping him going through a few times as well.
‘You do wonder with the lad in 18 months time what could he do then. Wednesday night was an interesting one for Leon.
‘He probably didn't break through and really give Straker a lot of problems going forward but it was a good contest.
‘I thought it was an interesting duel.
‘That one-on-one was a very interesting one and Leon did look like he could go on to cope I think.’
Fellow third-year scholars Joe Dandy, Josh Flint and Brad Lethbridge also featured for the reserves, as well as first-year professional Matt Casey
While Pompey didn’t want to be emphatically defeated, Jackett felt games like that help youngsters’ development.
He added: ‘You don’t want to get beat heavily like we did on Wednesday night, you don’t set out to do that.
‘In terms of our selection for those sort of games, we do pretty much get it spot on and do feel we’re quite strong against certain opposition.
‘It’s a balance between getting through and making sure the young lads get the games and time out there.
‘You never quite do know until they play. You can look at training all the time and Saturday morning stuff all the time but there is a group of under-19s there who we want to play then add one or two of the better younger players to get to competitive team.
‘They’re very much thrown into the deep end. You don’t set out to lose heavily but it’s hard quite hard to gauge because you can't necessarily speak for other people in what team they’ll put out.
‘Oxford went very strong (in the EFL Trophy) and we won the penalty shootout, while other teams can rest players – it does depend on their situation.’