Appy believes youngsters are wilting under Pompey expectations

Ashley Harris, second from right, and Adam Webster, right, celebrate during the league match at Crawley earlier this season
Ashley Harris, second from right, and Adam Webster, right, celebrate during the league match at Crawley earlier this season
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Michael Appleton fears the Pompey pressure has started to inhibit his brightest starlets.

Now the Blues boss wants to pull Ashley Harris and Adam Webster out of the first team in order for them to ‘rejuvenate’.

Both failed to shine along with the vast majority of their team-mates in Tuesday night’s 3-1 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Wycombe.

Webster gave away a second-half penalty, while substitute Harris lacked his usual impact after coming on for the final 29 minutes.

For Appleton, the teenagers’ displays were indicative of their inexperience.

Both players are undoubted talents but the Blues boss is concerned about fans’ expectations.

He believes the duo need to be given some breathing space.

Appleton said: ‘It has been a big week for Ashley Harris and Adam Webster.

‘Over the space of a few days, the reality of what they are – 17 and 18-year-old kids – was pretty much evident against Wycombe from some of their decision making.

‘People get excited about them and think they are world beaters.

‘Then all of a sudden they have a couple of games where they actually show they are young boys and just coming out of youth-level football.

‘If you keep relying on them every week that is what happens.

‘That is not their fault, that’s just where we are as a club at the minute and it is crucial we get more quality.

‘The fans were calling for Ash. At the end of the day they are just passionate to see one of their own come on and do well.

‘But you can then see the type of pressure put on him when he came onto the pitch and you have got to be careful sometimes.

‘What the fans are doing is putting him under massive, massive pressure. It’s a lot of pressure for him.

‘This is not just a run-of-the-mill club, it’s a big, big football club with a massive fanbase and to ask a player to keep producing like that is difficult.

‘Hopefully we can bring a little bit of quality into the squad, so I will be able to pull them out of the limelight for a while and give them breathing space.

‘Then they can be rejuvenated and go again.’

Webster has impressed after starting the past four matches.

With Mustapha Dumbuya away on international duty and Josh Thompson injured, he has been given a run in the side.

Meanwhile, Harris has made more of an impression coming off the bench.

Yet Appleton was disappointed with their Wycombe contribution.

He added: ‘I had to bring Ash on just to try to give us a little bit of something going towards the Fratton end – but it didn’t quite happen.

‘Adam pretty much has had three games in a week and I think it showed.

‘I am going to make sure I now pull him out of it for a few days and make sure he is completely refreshed for the weekend.

‘The penalty looked a bit soft but I think if you switch off a little bit and are not aware of what is around you, if you put your leg out you have always got a chance.’