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Saints hammer Pompey in cup
Even the most ardent Portsmouth fan would struggle to find any valid comparison between the success of the club’s academy and that of their neighbours at Saints, and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
But even in the past, the heritage of the Saints Academy has totally eclipsed their rivals from down the M27.
You can hark back to a bygone age of Shearer, Le Tissier, the Wallace brothers etc and carry right on through to Bale, Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lallana and Shaw, to name just a few.
The Pompey cupboard is considerably barer.
Football though doesn’t live in the past, it must never stand still, and both clubs are making a priority on youth a cornerstone of their work.
Pompey have to – finance dictates that.
Saints on the other hand are a club with a philosophical belief in youth development.
That Saints had four 18-year-old academy products on the field at the end of the Manchester City game at the weekend was proof if any was needed.
That isn’t enough for Saints however.
They want more – and soon.
Tonight’s FA Youth Cup third round tie against Pompey at St Mary’s gave the 3,814 in attendance a glimpse of what lies beneath, and what it revealed was encouraging.
Sam Gallagher has already broken onto the very fringes of the first team and looks a real handful. Though Pompey’s under-18 defence was a world away from the Premier League his power, strength and intelligence was just too much for them.
Tom Leggett at right back might well have reminded under-18s boss Jason Dodd of himself as a youngster.
Strong defensively, keen to get forward, a real solid, steady eddie but clearly a leader, all those qualities Dodd showed so often during his brilliant playing career at the club.
Jake Hesketh and Josh Sims were also lively threats, the former scoring twice, while in fairness, those playing in the non-glory areas were just as effective.
There wasn’t actually a bad Saints display out there, which is encouraging given the young lads had on their shoulders the pressure of playing at St Mary’s and against Pompey.
Though Saints turn out in the top flight of youth football and Pompey lower down the ladder, they had to prove their superiority on the night, and their win was every bit as comprehensive as the 7-0 scoreline sounded.
Indeed, besieged Pompey keeper Alex Bass was arguably their man of the match and it could have been a lot worse for Pompey if it weren’t for a string of top saves.
Sims had the first good chance of the match after just seven minutes but couldn’t find the target before Gallagher flicked a header just over the bar.
Pompey probably should have taken the lead four minutes later when Kyle Clinton’s short backpass inadvertently played in Lewis Horsburgh.
The striker appeared to be taken by surprise and couldn’t decide whether to finish quickly or attempt to round the keeper and eventually saw Harry Isted make the save.
For all their dominance and pressure it took Saints until 27 minutes to break the deadlock.
Gallagher got down the left and delivered a good cut back to Hesketh who produced a neat finish into the far corner.
After that moment there was only one team in it and it was just a matter of how many Saints would score.
After Bass made a terrific double save from Sims and Gallagher, and then another moments later as the striker produced a shot that was almost a carbon copy of Dani Osvaldo’s goal at the weekend, they did bag one more just before half-time.
Unfortunate Pompey diverted a corner into their own six-yard box and a grateful Niall Mason reacted sharply to stab home from close range.The second half was a total Saints rampage as they ran riot and looked capable of scoring at will.
It was 3-0 six minutes after the restart as Hesketh’s shot was saved by Bass only for the alert Gallagher to follow it up and turn home the rebound.
Hesketh scored his second of the night on 61 minutes with a nice flick and finish past Bass.
The fifth came just four minutes later as Gallagher steered a header into the bottom corner after being found by Leggett’s right wing cross.
That left Gallagher chasing a hat-trick and he probably thought it wouldn’t come after Bass kept him out with another inspired save.
But this was a night when everything was going for Saints and duly his third arrived with six minutes remaining.
This time it was more luck than judgement as a left wing cross struck him on the thigh and left Bass helpless as it diverted in off the inside of the near post.
Just seconds later second half sub Mark Irvine got in on the act, bursting through down the right and finishing superbly into the far corner.
There was a hint that trouble might flare up at the end of the game as a couple of the 616 Pompey fans tried to make a break for the Saints supporters on the opposite side of the ground but the stewards quickly snuffed that out.
Just as well as nothing should have been allowed to detract from a big night for the young players on show.
The 7-0 scoreline certainly didn’t flatter Saints.
It not only booked them a place in the next round, but underlined that their youth system dominance looks set to continue for some time to come.
Saints: Isted, Leggett, Clinton, Debayo, Targett, Mason Flannigan, Barnes (Irvine 73), Hesketh (Nehemie 77), Sims (Higgins 77), Gallagher.
Pompey: Bass, Hanustrup, Field, Whatmough, Medway, Chaplin (Gill 55), Granger (Nilsen 75), Close, Kim (Rwakarambwe 81), Tarbuck, Horsburgh.
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