Pompey’s Academy have injected some much-needed feel-good factor into the club after racing into the Youth Alliance Cup semi-finals.
The outfit are in sight of the final following their 5-1 demolition of MK Dons on Saturday.
Bradley Tarbuck boosted his reputation as he helped himself to a hat-trick, with Conor Chaplin and Lewis Horsburgh getting the other goals.
The under-18 side came back from falling behind after five minutes to blow their opponents away.
It was just the response coach Paul Hardyman wanted to see after a sloppy loss to AFC Wimbledon.
Hardyman had praise for Tarbuck, who took his tally to 11 for the season.
It was the all-round work ethic of the side which really impressed the coach, however, after they were hit by injury and illness going into the game.
Hardyman said: ‘It’s great to be in the semi-final.
‘We went behind but worked and concentrated on what we’d worked on in training – getting the ball into good areas.
‘In the end we had 25 chances, so that shows you how much we dominated the game.
‘To do that when we had Jack Whatmough out injured, Liam Triggs out with illness and three players playing who were unwell is a credit to the side.
‘They battled hard, dug in and showed some real Pompey spirit. It was pleasing for Bradley to get his hat-trick.
‘That takes him into double figures for the season, which is a good amount for a wide player.
‘He was thrust into the limelight at the start of the season with the game at Plymouth in the league cup.
‘Some people are asking if he is ready for the first team but he isn’t yet. Maybe this time next year he will be.
‘He has a bit to do in terms of strength and conditioning work and will have to learn about playing men’s football.
‘But he has the ability to run at people with the ball, which is a bit of a dying art.
‘He’s a local lad from Emsworth who has been with us since he was nine and came all the way through the ranks. He has a good future ahead of him if he keeps pushing on.’
The under-18s called on under-16 youngsters Chad Field and Conor Chaplin with players missing for the cup game.
Neither were overawed with Portchester’s Field starting in the side and Sussex teenager Chaplin coming off the bench.
Hardyman said: ‘Chad is a lad who came from the holiday courses and into what was the centre of excellence – a centre-half who can play in midfield.
‘Connor came on as sub against Crawley and scored and also was involved against MK Dons. He has electric pace and can unlock a defence.’