Pompey test was good preparation for cup final
- Alex James
Coach Shaun Cooper felt AFC Bournemouth under-21s’ friendly against Portsmouth had been ideal preparation for their eagerly-awaited Central League Cup final.
A Pompey team boasting several players with first-team experience ran out 3-0 victors against Cooper’s young charges at Canford Arena yesterday.
With the majority of his under-21 squad currently on loan, Cooper has been running the rule over several members of Alan Connell’s under-18s, both in training and in matches.
The Cherries are expected to name another youthful line-up when they face Notts County in the Central League Cup final at Meadow Lane on Wednesday (1pm kick-off).
Cooper told afcb.co.uk: “It was another good run-out for the boys and a good game in preparation for the cup final.
“We think we are going to be facing an experienced Notts County team so it was good for the young boys to have a game like that and there was lots to learn from.
“I felt Portsmouth were able to play out from the back a bit too easily in the first half but we fixed that at half-time. The boys came out and pressed and we had a lot more energy in the second half.
“We played some good stuff throughout the game and had some really good moments. We got into good areas but just lacked that final product at times. It was a bit of a nearly day but there were lots of positives and lots to learn from going into the cup final.”
The Cherries starting line-up included five members of the under-18 squad together with Mark Travers, Kyle Taylor, Jaidon Anthony, Nnamdi Ofoborh, Gav Kilkenny and a trialist.
Goalkeeper Travers was powerless to prevent Adam May’s finely-taken goal giving the visitors the lead after 13 minutes.
May, who spent the first half of the season on loan to National League Aldershot, found the bottom corner with a venomous strike after fastening on to Haji Mnoga’s cross.
As the Cherries looked for a quick response, Ofoborh fired straight at Pompey goalkeeper Alex Bass before their trialist saw his effort from an acute angle slip past the post.
Louis Dennis, who featured prominently in Pompey’s victorious Checkatrade Trophy campaign, atoned for a glaring first-half miss when he doubled their lead seven minutes after the break.
After Tom Hanfrey had been judged to have tripped Mnoga in the box, Dennis’s cheeky Panenka penalty made it 2-0.
May hit the post from 20 yards before a sustained spell of pressure from the Cherries saw both Ofoborh and Kilkenny go close to reducing the arrears.
But Dennis had the final say when his composed finish completed the scoring 14 minutes from time.
Asked about the main differences for players on loan and those staying behind, Cooped added: “For the boys on loan, the emphasis is on the result and it’s win at all costs.
“When they are here, it’s more individual, more performance-based and how they do based on their own personal targets while playing within a team.
“While we know the result against Portsmouth wasn’t the be-all and end-all, we look to instil a winning mentality into the boys but you only get a real sense of that when you are out on loan.
“Also, when they are on loan, they get to play against older players so there are more opportunities to learn and different kinds of experiences.
“The Portsmouth game was as close to playing a first-team fixture as you would get if you’re not on loan so they both have benefits.”
AFC Bournemouth: Travers, Genesini (Nippard, 65), Camp, Ibsen Rossi, Hanfrey (Zemura, 70), Kilkenny, Taylor, Ofoborh, Cope, Anthony (Pardoe, 80), Trialist (Hamilton, h-t). Unused sub: Dinsmore.