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Portsmouth Under-21s 5 Aston Villa Under-21s 0: Koroma hits hat-trick as Pompey ease past Villa

Michael Jacobs celebrates scoring Pompey’s second goal in the Papa John’s Trophy against Aston Villa Under-21s. Image credit: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages Danny Cowley’s much-changed Aston Villa Under-21s were thrashed 5-0 as they claimed their first group win of the Papa John’s Trophy campaign. Substitute Koroma, who had scored in the previous home game against Plymouth, added two more goals for Fratton. Despite the smiles and cheers, there were concerns about Pigott’s injury, which forced the striker off after 34 minutes. With only three natural centre-forwards on their books, the Blues cannot afford to lose the former AFC Wimbledon man for an extended period of time.

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As it was, Pigott’s introduction allowed Koroma to be introduced from the bench, and the Huddersfield man responded by scoring two second-half goals.

Indeed, the foundations were laid as early as the seventh minute, when the hosts took a 2-0 lead.

When Pigott’s shot was saved, Ronan Curtis broke the deadlock after only 67 seconds, and man-of-the-match Michael Jacobs added a second.

With the score 2-0 at halftime, Koroma scored twice in 10 minutes after the break, with Reeco Hackett, who played as a striker for the evening, completing the victory.

So there’s justification for Cowley, who made ten changes to the team that lost 3-2 at Ipswich on Saturday, with Sean Raggett the lone constant.

The 2,805-strong crowd, 232 of whom were Villa fans, were treated to an entertaining match that extended Pompey’s unbeaten run at Fratton Park to 16 games.

Nonetheless, Pigott’s injury put a damper on an otherwise fantastic evening for the Blues.

Cowley used the game to rotate his team, giving game time to fringe players and those who had recently returned from injury.

As a result, Sean Raggett – the only survivor from the 3-2 loss at Ipswich – was joined in the starting XI by Reeco Hackett, Denve Hume, Zak Swanson, Jay Mingi, and Ryan Tunnicliffe.

In other news, Kieron Freeman was given his third appearance since dislocating his ankle in February, albeit in an unfamiliar center-half role alongside Raggett.

Michael Jacobs started following his recent return to fitness at Portman Road, while Ronan Curtis came off the bench to win a second-half penalty in Saturday’s loss.

Joe Pigott, who was ineligible to play against parent club Ipswich, made his first start in five matches, partnering Hackett in a Pompey front two.

The Blues’ bench featured Joe Morrell and Josh Koroma, but it was otherwise young, with five Academy players.

Goalkeeper Malachi Osei-Owusu, Adam Payce, Harvey Laidlaw, Brian Quarm, and Dan Murray were among them.

Villa started the game well, but Curtis scored after only 67 seconds.

Jacobs played the ball down the left to Pigott, whose angled right-footed shot was deflected by keeper Filip Marschall and tapped into an empty net by the Irishman.

Curtis looked for the offside flag, but there was none, and the hosts took an early lead in straightforward fashion.

Pompey doubled their lead on seven minutes when Denver Hume put out a foot to dispossess Taylor-Jay Hart on the edge of the box.

The ball fell helpfully to Jacobs down the left, who cut across the box and, with his third touch, drilled a right-footed shot into the far bottom corner with admirable ease.

It was a blistering start from the Blues, yet awful Villa defending contributed to their own downfall before the hosts had even broken sweat.

On 12 minutes, the lively Jacobs took the ball down smartly and pulled the ball back from the left to find Hackett, but his first-team shot was blocked.

Moments later, Jacobs fed the overlapping Hume and slid a pass to Pigott, whose right-footed shot was pushed around the post by Marschall.

Villa responded with Kyrie Pierre firing an angled shot from the right which Josh Oluwayemi did well to block, with Freeman’s acrobatic overhead kick completing the clearance.

Cowley’s men were threatening with every attack and, on 27 minutes, Hume’s deep cross from the left was met with an angled far-post header from Curtis which the flying Marschall pushed out.

Pompey were forced into a substitution on 34 minutes, with a seemingly injured Pigott coming off to be replaced by Josh Koroma, who slotted in up front alongside Hackett.

The scoreline remained 2-0 at half-time and, after the break, Pompey brought on Joe Morrell for Raggett, with Mingi dropping back to partner Freeman in the centre of defence.

Villa themselves made two substitutions, with Lamare Bogarde and Ruben Shakpoke replaced by Seb Revan and Declan Frith.

Pompey picked up where they left off, with Jacobs receiving Koroma’s ball into the left channel of the box and twisting and turning before shooting against the post.

Yet it was 3-0 on 53 minutes when Jacobs’ shot with the outside of his right foot was pushed out by the keeper, where it was controlled by Tunnicliffe, who unselfishly squared to Koroma inside the box.

The substitute gleefully took up the invitation to shoot, producing a first-time right-footed finish into the roof of the net to effectively seal the contest.

On 63 minutes it was 4-0 to the hosts when Tunniclifffe and Koroma combined inside the box and the latter fired a right-footed first-time shot which beat Marschall at his near post to find the net.

Man-of-the-match Jacobs came off to an excellent reception from the home fans and, moments later, it was 5-0.

On 69 minutes, Hackett drove forward with the ball and unleashed a low left-footed shot from 25-yards which found the bottom corner of the net.

Koroma had a golden chance for a hat-trick with 10 minutes remaining, yet dragged his shot wide of the far post when well-positioned inside the box.

In the 82nd minute, Laidlaw and Quarm were introduced for Mingi and Hume, giving the youngsters a taste of Fratton Park.

Yet there was to be no further addition to the scoreline as Pompey breezed to victory over Villa’s kids to strengthen hopes of group qualification in the Papa John’s Trophy.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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