Charlie Bell about to score Portchester's early winner. Picture by Daniel HaswellCharlie Bell about to score Portchester's early winner. Picture by Daniel Haswell
Charlie Bell about to score Portchester's early winner. Picture by Daniel Haswell

Teenage goalkeeper Logan O’Donnell shines on US Portsmouth debut in narrow loss to Wessex League leaders AFC Portchester

Logan O’Donnell produced a ‘brilliant’ display after ‘being thrown in at the deep end’ for his US Portsmouth debut.

The teenager, who has joined from Horndean, had only trained with his new colleagues two days earlier prior to facing Wessex League table-toppers AFC Portchester.

The omens weren’t good when the Royals - who had scored 108 goals in their previous 32 Premier fixtures - took an early lead with Charlie Bell netting his first goal for the club.

But O’Donnell wasn’t beaten again as US produced a performance which belied their seventh-from-bottom status.

Though the visitors suffered a 20th league loss of the season, boss Fraser Quirke was as satisfied as you can be with a defeat.

‘It was a high end performance,’ he told The News. ‘We had a game plan and we stuck to it, we believed in ourselves.

‘The beauty of it is that our heads didn’t drop, we continued to play, we continued to create chances. With a bit more care, it could have been a whole different story.’

The only goal came on 10 minutes when Dan Sibley was caught in possession on the halfway line and a few second later Bell was scampering through and rounding O’Donnell to score.

USP’s ‘golden’ chance to bag a shock point arrived late on, but ex-Royal Bradey Norton sent a shot wide from around six yards out.

O’Donnell was signed due to USP having now lost Owen Craig to foreign Naval duties for the remainder of the season.

Charlie Shepherd would have been the obvious deputy, but he was serving a one-game ban after being sent off for the reserves the previous weekend.

Quirke said: ‘When we played Horndean last week I knew I’d be losing Owen so I flippantly said to Birmy (Deans boss Michael Birmingham), ‘you’ve got Cameron Scott and Ellis Grant, you don’t need both of them’.

‘He said I couldn’t have either of them but he did have Logan who he said is a really bright prospect.

‘I spoke to Logan and he was keen to get some step 5 football.

‘He was thrown in at the deep end but he was brilliant. He acquitted himself very well, he was everything we wanted, his handling was good, his distribution was good.’

O’Donnell has played twice for Horndean’s first team this season, against Laverstock in the Wessex League Cup and the first 45 minutes against Moneyfields in the Portsmouth Senior Cup.

He is staying with USP for the remainder of the season and will vie with Shepherd for the keeper’s jersey, starting with next weekend’s home game against Portland.

USP are by no means safe from relegation, lying six points above second-bottom Pagham but having played more games than some of their bottom seven rivals.

Portland are only one place above USP while third-bottom Blackfield & Langley travel to the Victory Stadium on Tuesday week for another huge fixture.

‘I’m still looking over my shoulder,’ said Quirke. ‘There’s no room for complacency, it’s still all hands to the pump.

‘I said to the players after the Portchester game that if they continue to play like that we’ll be ok. That’s the challenge for them.’

Portchester’s 28th win in 33 matches leaves them seven points ahead of AFC Stonenham, who defeated Laverstock 2-1, having played a game more.

The Purples have the chance to scissor the Royals’ lead to four points on Tuesday when they travel to Shaftesbury.

Horndean are now 13 points adrift of Portchester in third place - but with four games in hand - after their home game with Brockenhurst was postponed due to wet weather.

Horndean are home to Christchurch, who have won seven of their last nine Wessex fixtures, on Tuesday.