Kids to stake claim for cup final and first-team squad

Bradley Tarbuck will be among those Academy player looking to shine in the Youth Alliance Cup semi-final against Bristol Rovers on Saturday
Bradley Tarbuck will be among those Academy player looking to shine in the Youth Alliance Cup semi-final against Bristol Rovers on Saturday

Pompey fans have been called on to turn out and cheer the Academy on to cup glory on Saturday.

Coach Paul Hardyman has asked supporters to back the under-18s in their Youth Alliance Cup semi-final clash against Bristol Rovers at Westleigh Park (11am kick-off).

Hardyman believes it’s the ideal chance for fans to see some of the Blues stars of the future in action.

First-team caretaker boss Guy Whittingham, who will be watching the game alongside Academy manager Andy Awford, has already indicated he’s considering promoting a player from the Academy to the first-team set-up.

And the accent is now firmly on youth development when it comes to the make-up of the first team squad in the future.

With Pompey facing Carlisle at Fratton Park on the same day, it makes for a double-banker of Blues action for supporters to take in.

Hardyman, who has thanked both the Hawks and Bognor for stepping in to stage Academy matches, knows his side face a tough task against opponents flying high in their South West League.

But he promised the young guns are focused on performing to their optimum in the clash.

Hardyman said: ‘It’s game we’re looking forward to and have been building up for this week.

‘It’s a tough test against a side who are top of their league and have been playing well all season.

‘It’s a challenge for the lads.

‘But we have home advantage and want to make the most of that.

‘They have to get up early and travel down here, so we will be looking to start quickly against them.

‘It’s a chance of getting to a final and we want to be competitive in a one-off game.

‘Guy and Andy will be at the game and Guy has said there’s a space available in the first-team squad, so it’s a chance for the players to stake their claim.

‘I asked the players this week when was the last time they played in a cup final?

‘Some of them said they had never played in one. That, for me, is to the detriment of Academy football.

‘I think it’s important for them to help their development.

‘One thing we do know is Bristol Rovers will be competitive on Saturday.

‘They will be trying to make it difficult for us. We want to match that and then hopefully let our football take over.’

Pompey booked their place in the cup semis after thumping MK Dons 5-1.

But they went down to their second league defeat on the bounce last weekend when they lost 2-1 to Gillingham.

Hardyman said: ‘We had a few out injured and a couple under the weather with a virus, which is hard for a small squad to handle.

‘But we didn’t really click and that was disappointing.

‘Now it’s all about how we bounce back in the semi-final.’