THREE players will miss Portsmouth Academy's crucial top of the table encounter, at home to league-leaders Colchester United Academy, this Saturday.
Lewis Gill (sore ankle) and Lewis Horsburgh (sore calf) are both on the sidelines nursing minor injuries, along with James Granger (ill). Jack Whatmough could be a doubt, as it is unclear whether he will travel with the Portsmouth FC first-team to Fleetwood, or remain with the Academy for the all important fixture. Three U16s players could step up to fill the void.
A week on since their Youth-Alliance South League Cup Semi-Final success, they slumped to a 1-0 shock defeat to AFC Wimbledon on Saturday, which ended an unbeaten home run of 8 games in all competitions. The young Blues forced two goal line scrambles which were quashed by the officials who ruled the ball not crossing the line on both occasions. The away side snatched a late winner, 20 minutes from time, clinching three vital points.
Portsmouth Youth Manager, Paul Hardyman, revealed that the Academy staff had given the players some words of wisdom in order to inspire them to glory for the coming weeks.
“We had a heart to heart with the lads yesterday on how they played Saturday and we did a lot of match analysis,” said Hardyman.
“It was a case of that we decided, we were going to give them questions and get the answers from them which was really positive. “We told them on Saturday and again yesterday, that we can take getting beat but we can't get taken beat.”
Colchester sit at the top of the table with a 4 point advantage, as teams below aim to catch them. Portsmouth have a two-game advantage over The U's with Gillingham in 2nd, just one game in hand over the league leaders. Looking ahead to the fixture with Colchester, Hardyman described the positive mentality they possess and will go in to the match with a 'point to prove':
“We're really positive. Last year, we were playing Dagenham & Redbridge and Luton at the end of the season competing for a chance to win the title - this year it's Colchester and Gillingham.
“The good thing about it is if there is one (a title race), we are still there in contention and the teams that were there last season, probably Luton and Dagenham & Redbridge – with all due respect to them especially Dagenham as they're bottom of the league.
“But Luton, they will probably be pleased to be fighting for it at the top of the table.
“We're going into it with a point to prove to be honest.”
Of the current campaign, Pompey have eight games left to play which ironically include a League Cup Final away to Colchester.
“There are lots of games coming up thick and fast so there will be changes to the squad, but the main thing is that the lads are focusing on performing and that they have a cup final to look forward to in the near future,” added Hardyman.
Portsmouth Academy host Colchester United Academy at Furze Lane in this highly anticipated fixture, which could decide the title race. It will be an 11:30am kick-off and spectators can watch for free.