POMPEY ACADEMY end their Youth Alliance League south west division season in style at Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Stadium on Saturday (11am).
Mikey Harris’ side will make the trip to the Gas’ 11,916 capacity ground at the second time of asking, following a postponement earlier this month.
Harris’ friendship with former Salisbury City colleague Darrell Clarke – Rovers’ first-team boss – presented the Academy with an opportunity to strut their stuff on the big stage, only for bad weather to ruin their planned agreement.
But with Rovers out of action this weekend, after their surprise FA Trophy exit to Bath City, the Blues have been given a second bite at the cherry.
Harris, though, will not be rewarding the players who have performed regularly for the Academy this season, with no second-year scholars involved in the finale.
That’s despite an impressive 4-2 victory at Plymouth on Saturday – with the prolific Conor Chaplin and Fahad Rwakarambwe among the scorers.
The Academy coach has decided, instead, to run the rule over some of the Blues’ prodigious 16 and 17-year-olds, with first-year scholars – including Adam May and Brandon Joseph-Buadi, who both also scored against Plymouth – given increased responsibility.
Harris said: ‘We are going to play at the Mem, which will be a brilliant experience for the boys.
‘We will be using the game as an under-16s/17s fixture, though, with no second-year scholars involved.
‘Again, it’s part of the philosophy of the Academy to stretch and challenge at all levels right down to the younger age groups.
‘The under-18s will instead be working with some of the younger first-team players who aren’t involved in the Southend game.
‘Being in and around older, stronger and more experienced players will be good for them.’
Harris, who watched on as the under-16s lost 4-3 at Plymouth on Saturday, has challenged those selected to impress him on their step-up to under-18s football.
They have the chance to press their claims for a scholarship at the club.
He said: ‘For some of the under-16s, it will give them a chance to show what they can do at youth-team level.
‘There will be a couple of lads who haven’t yet represented the youth team playing because we want to give everyone the opportunity to do so.
‘The players who do step up, I will be working with on a day-to-day basis next year.
‘Football is all about how you perform in a match environment so it will be a real good opportunity for me to observe and interact with them in that environment.’
The Blues could end the season in third place with a victory against Rovers.