Academy stay on track for top-three finish

Pompey Academy striker Bradley Tarbuck
Pompey Academy striker Bradley Tarbuck

Pompey’s Academy youngsters returned to winning ways and renewed their hopes of a top-three Alliance Youth League finish with a 2-0 victory against Dagenham & Redbridge.

Coach Paul Hardyman was able to call upon the services of Nick Awford, Adam Webster and Jack Maloney for yesterday’s game, after the trio were named on the first-team bench for last Saturday’s League One fixture against Stevenage.

And they were all eager to impress, with Blues caretaker duo Guy Whittingham and Andy Awford keenly looking on from the sidelines.

When the action got under way, only a fine diving save by Daggers keeper Cain Davies denied Webster, who met a Bradley Tarbuck cross to power a header towards the corner of the net.

Webster again got forward to send another header across goal and wide of the far post before Maloney and Lewis Horsburgh – back in the side after illness – created a chance for Tarbuck whose finish flew wide.

Just when it looked as if the first half would end goalless, Awford latched on to a clearance and let fly a left-footed rocket from distance that hit the back of the Dagenham net before Davies had time to react.

Up to that point, the Furze Lane visitors had huffed and puffed but hardly bothered a Pompey rearguard intent on keeping a clean sheet.

Although, early in the second half the Blues’ Jack Whatmough for once allowed striker Rocky Efambe to outmuscle him and go clear, only to blaze his effort wildly over.

As Pompey continued to dominate much of the play, Hardyman brought South Korean player Jae Heon Kim and Conor Chaplin off the substitutes’ bench.

The pair quickly became involved in several fine moves, with both Maloney and Tarbuck going close to extending the lead.

And just when Dagenham looked likely to spring an equaliser following a couple of tidy moves of their own, Pompey effectively put the match out of reach when Maloney and Chaplin engineered an opening for Tarbuck, who duly side-stepped his marker in the penalty area to ram a shot high into the net.

With two home matches remaining of the campign – against Northampton Town at Nyewood Lane and Luton Town at Westleigh Park – the Fratton hopefuls realistically need to win both to keep alive their hopes of a top-three finish in their first season at this level.

Pompey Academy: Colquhoun, Medway, Triggs, Awford, Webster, Whatmough, Maloney, Branford, Horsburgh, Close, Tarbuck. Subs: Chaplin, Haunstrap, Kim, Field

Dagenham & Redbridge Academy: C Davies, Yexley, Walker, Pykes, Stuart, Rumens, Sidhu, Tredwell, Nouble, Ferguson, Efambe. Subs:

S Davies, Crickmay, Hursit, Clark, Monsheju