U18s equalled in Portsmouth point
AFC Bournemouth Under-18s came from behind to draw 1-1 with Portsmouth Under-18s at Canford Park Arena on Saturday.
The Cherries went a goal down through Alfie Stanley’s first-half strike, before Jake Cope equalised on the brink of half-time.
Bournemouth had more of the ball in the second half, but couldn’t force another breakthrough and settled for one more point in their final home game of Merit League One.
With heavy winds playing a part in either side’s approach to the game, Portsmouth opted to switch ends after winning the coin toss at kick-off, and it certainly benefitted them going forward.
Bournemouth struggled to get the ball out of their own half, with defensive clearances flying straight back at them. Portsmouth’s number 12 had the first chance of the game, firing over the bar from distance.
Having weathered the early storm, Connor Kurran-Browne gave Bournemouth a sight at goal when he flicked wide from Brooklyn Genesini’s cross.
When the deadlock was broken, it came by way of Portsmouth’s Stanley, who stroked the ball over the line after working his way into Bournemouth’s 18-yard box on the 28th minute.
But Pompey’s lead could only last for 17 minutes, as Cope scored a brilliant equaliser on the brink of half-time. Brennan Camp brought the ball out from defence and dribbled half the length of the pitch, before playing it to Cope on the left. He made no mistake, cutting inside onto his right foot and smashing it into the bottom right corner from outside the box for 1-1.
Zeno Ibsen Rossi almost doubled the Cherries lead in the second half, when he headed just wide from Moriah-Welsh’s inviting cross.
Into the final third of the game, Genesini found himself a long way from his natural right-back position when he played a neat one-two with Kurran-Browne and toe-poked a shot straight at the onrushing ‘keeper.
With just under ten minutes remaining, Portsmouth really should have scored another, as a cross drilled into the danger area from number 11 was on a plate for number 17 to score. The latter somehow put it over the bar from point blank range, and Bournemouth could breathe a sigh of relief.
There were ultimately chances for either side to win it in the second half, but a draw was probably a fair result given the overall balance of play.
afcb.co.uk caught up with Under-18s manager Alan Connell after the game…
afcb.co.uk: Another point gained. What was your assessment of it?
AC: We were very much against the wind in the first half, but the mentality we showed to play out, when Portsmouth were making it difficult for us with the strong wind, was excellent.
We didn’t always get it right but we kept trying to do the things that we always encourage, and when we did get out and break through, we looked a threat. It was that bit in the final third that meant we only scored the one goal.
We dug in and had to deal with balls into our box and scored a great goal on the stroke of half time. Brennan stepped out really well and drove with the ball before creating an overload in the final third which Jake Cope made the most of with a moment that he’s very capable of with a great strike into the far corner.
afcb.co.uk: Was there anyone else who stood out for you?
AC: We had a trialist in midfield who was tenacious and used the ball well, which is never easy for a trialist in their first game. I didn’t think anyone was particularly outstanding, but Joe Beasant’s mentality, as an Under-16s goalkeeper in those conditions, was really good. He didn’t look fazed or flustered and made a couple of decent saves.
Brennan led by example at the back, but everyone competed really well and I thought it was a really good, enjoyable game in difficult circumstances. Both teams had a right go, and I was pleased that the boys were trying to do the things we always encourage them to do.
They struck to our principles of trying to play. It was probably our decision making and execution in the final third that denied us getting the winning goal.
afcb.co.uk: You can’t really prepare for those weather conditions in training, can you?
AC: No, the weather has been good this week. We knew the wind was coming and it can often be the biggest spoiling factor when it comes to a game of football. It’s difficult to prepare for, but we tried to in the best way we could for this game and I thought the boys carried the game plan out well.
There are definitely positive signs, as we had mainly a first-year team playing today, so it’s positive moving into next season after that difficult period we had in February and early March time.
afcb.co.uk: The next game against AFC Wimbledon is due to be played at their stadium, so that will offer another good opportunity for the players as well.
AC: It will be great to play at their stadium. It’s something a bit different as it’s an evening kick-off. We’ve had so many stadium experiences in these last two years and it will be a good one for the first-years to get more of that experience under their belt ahead of FA Youth Cup games next season.
We’re always looking to test the players and give them new experiences. I think there will be a few hundred people there as it’s a showcase game for them. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully we can finish the season off in style.
It has been a great season and as a team I’ve been pleased with lots of things, such as the FA Youth Cup run and the progress the boys have made. That has seen so many of the second-years offered contracts.
It’s all to play for and there’s no let up now. We’ll be working hard next week in preparation for the game.
afcb.co.uk: Finally, you were at the Minus 17 premiere event on Wednesday night. What was it like for you to catch up with your old team mates and watch the documentary?
AC: The documentary was excellent and really well put together by Matt Joyce and the team. It definitely brought back memories and it was really nice being amongst everyone. Obviously, a lot of them still work at the club.
It felt so normal and natural to be back with everyone. I thought I would have a great evening, but it was even better than that! It was really lovely. It makes all of us reflect and realise how far we’ve come.
It puts everything into perspective of where we are now and hopefully where we’re going. I’ve encouraged the youth team boys to watch it, and I know some already have and more are going to just to get an understanding of where we’ve come from.
We don’t want to live in the past and we want to move forward. We’re as demanding on the players as we are because this club has fought through some difficult times and it’s my job and our job as an academy to make them realise that they do get a lot compared to what we used to get as a first team.
Eddie Howe said it himself, you want people to realise where we’ve come from but you don’t want to live in the past. You want to live for the present and the future and this club has got a very exciting future which I’m proud to be a part of.
The AFC Bournemouth Under-18s side are sponsored by Strategic Solutions.