Portsmouth forward edging closer to League OneÂ bow '“Â especially following Wolves loanee's departure
Sports writer Will Rooney assesses the talking points from Pompey's 2-0 Checkatrade Trophy win at Southend on Tuesday evening...
DENNIS CLOSER TO LEAGUE BOW
It was another Checkatrade Trophy opportunity for Louis Dennis to showcase his talent.
And yet again he grabbed his chance in impressive fashion.
The forwardÂ made only his fourth appearanceÂ after arriving on a free transfer from National League outfit Bromley in May.Â
AllÂ have been in the much-maligned competition '“Â but Dennis won'tÂ regardÂ it that way.Â
He was Kenny Jackett's chief attacking outlet against Southend and netted a deservedÂ first goal for the club after just 93 seconds.
The ex-Dagenham man rose well to head Dan Smith's cross into the top corner.
Although he didn't celebrate emphatically, the relief must have been immense following a frustrating first half of the season.Â
He's still to don the star & crescent in League One and found himself out of the match-day squad more often thanÂ not.Â
Nevertheless, Dennis menaced the Shrimpers' rearguard, dancingÂ his way past any defender that attemptedÂ to thwart him.Â
He left Roots Hall with a goal and an assist. On the stroke of half-time, DennisÂ jinked into the box before nudging a ball back to Gareth Evans, who finished with aplomb.Â
Against an experienced Southend back four, the Hendon-born aceÂ displayed he's got the ability to cut it in the third tier.Â
After a number of eye-catching performances in the Checkatrade Trophy,Â a League One bow will come at some stage.Â
And withÂ Joe Mason returning to Wolves, it means that Dennis is now evenÂ closer to that feat.
Kenny Jackett had already handed debuts to Haji Mnoga, Bradley Lethbridge, Matt Casey and Freddie Read in the Checkatrade Trophy this season.
Now Dan Smith and Leon Maloney can add their names to the list after their appearances at Southend.
It's the former that members of the Fratton faithful have heard plenty about.
Smith has been rampant on loan at Bognor this season, scoring 12 goals in 15 appearances.
Despite being a centre-forward, the 19-year-oldÂ was utilised at right-back against the Shrimpers.Â
And any jitters on his maiden appearance would have significantly abated before two minutes wereÂ on the clock.
Smith's cross from the right had enough power and whip on it for Louis Dennis to guide a header home.
Although it was a fine finish, the delivery into the box was equally as impressive.
For someone who isn't a natural defender, the 19-year-old also helped restrict the hosts to a dearth of goalscoring chances.
Alex Bass hadÂ just one shot on target to keep out '“Â whichÂ was down his throat.Â
And while Maloney was principally asked to keep Pompey's shape when he replaced Lethbridge midway through the second half, there were a few encouraging moments from the Academy forward.
The future is looking bright for the Blues' youngsters as Jackett continues to blood them into the first team.
WEMBLEY ON THE HORIZON
Whether the Fratton faithful like it or not, a Wembley appearance could be on the cards for Pompey this season.Â
The Blues are just two outright wins from an appearance at the home of English football.
Reaching the quarter-finals of the Checkatrade Trophy couldn't have been much easier for Kenny Jackett's side.
Despite fielding a weakened side, Pompey cruised past a Southend outfitÂ which was flooded with experience.Â
While large sections of supporters will scotch at the chance to go to Wembley if the BluesÂ reach the final, the players certainly won't.
For many, it might be the only opportunity to do so during their careers.