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Young Blues Extend Unbeaten Run

Academy draw with Exeter in Youth Alliance League

27 November 2022

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Zesh Rehman

Pompey Academy stretched their unbeaten run to eight matches after drawing with Exeter at Copnor Road.

Both sides had opportunities to find a winner, but ultimately had to settle for a share of the Youth Alliance League spoils.

Lead professional development phase coach Zesh Rehman said: “We created several crossing opportunities In the first half, but could not quite find that finishing touch.

“Our pressing could have been better in the early stages, although once the game settled down, we were able to force mistakes and win the ball.

“I was pleased to see that although the defensive unit was tested, the boys were able to transfer lots of the moments we had practiced as a unit into the match itself.

“Sam Hudson has worked with the players to ensure that we support the ball better and play away from pressure to find the spare man in midfield.

“We looked more composed when progressing from the back with a real purpose to break lines. Our midfielders had also done excellent work during the week on opening their shoulders to face forward when receiving.

“In the second half we changed the game-plan to be slightly deeper and soak up pressure – it’s the first time we’d done this and an excellent learning experience, as we are very much a high pressing team.

“There were chances for us to win the game on the counter and we showed a great attitude to constantly get forward positively.

“The recovery runs and also the compactness between our units was far better, making it harder to break us down.

“The communication between Danny Cowley, James Barlow and myself also ensured we were able to manage individual pathways, resulting in four players being on the bench for the FA Cup later in the day.

"I absolutely loved the way we gave positive encouragement after both mistakes and good moments late in the game."

Zesh Rehman

“I cannot single out any individual because everyone, down to a man, respected the needs of the team and the plan.

“We actually played the final 20 minutes with 10 players – the first time we’ve done this – because of an injury.

“So I’m delighted with the manner in which the boys dug-in to preserve the clean sheet. We adapted really well.

“During our pre-season training camp at the navy, the squad were introduced to working as a team, effective communication, leadership and coping under pressure.

“We displayed all of those qualities in abundance against Exeter and very often in football, the plan never survives first contact.

“The honesty, passion, pride and desire to be stronger together was the best that I have seen from us all season.

“I absolutely loved the way we gave positive encouragement after both mistakes and good moments late in the game.

“Our academy values are not just words on the wall – they need to be lived every day, and in every way, without exception. This game was a clear sign of the group evolving to the next level.

“With a busy schedule coming up, we must remain focused on one half at a time and cannot look too far ahead.

“That’s six wins and two draws from our past eight games, meaning we go into Wednesday night’s FA Youth Cup tie with Cambridge holding plenty of positive momentum.”

Pompey: Osei-Owusu; Quarm, Dockerill (Bosaka 70), Fox, Laidlaw; Aston, Kamavuako, Payce (Simpson 66); Howell, Folarin, Mottoh (Hurst 70)

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