TWO goals for Harry Parsons and a thunderous long-range strike by Luke Haines helped Swindon Town Under 18s secure a 3-2 win against Portsmouth in their opening Merit League fixture this morning.

David Farrell’s youngsters took the lead in the opening minutes as Parsons prodded home from close range before Portsmouth scored on the stroke of half time to level the contest.

Haines fired Town back into the lead with seven minutes played in the second half with an unstoppable strike from outside the penalty area – only for Town to concede immediately from kick-off.

After having a penalty shout turned down, Parsons picked himself off the floor to conclude a polished individual performance with his second goal of the game on 68 minutes.

Jacob Bancroft, Sonny Haynes and Ralph Graham were other players to stand out for Town, who next weekend travel to face Exeter for their second fixture of the Merit League.

Reacting to the win, Town boss Farrell stated his side must improve their defensive performances if they are to trouble other teams in the division.

He added: “Winning the game is perhaps lower down the list than it should be in academy football.

“The positives that we can take out of the game is that they all put a shift in, they were cramping up at the end of the game and that was probably because we haven’t played a proper game for four or five weeks.

“There are definitely areas to work on defensively, especially playing with the formation we used.

“It’s a first game of the Merit League, and it’s vitally important that we start well and earn the points. And that is what we did.”

Portsmouth were not helped by a series of mis-timed final balls and ill-judged clearances from defence.

Admittedly, multiple questionable decisions from the referee went against both teams – with Portsmouth denied what seemed to be a clear penalty in the first half before an equally justified appeal from Town was waved off in the second half.

Learning to cope with controversial calls is something Farrell said his players must learn to deal with, especially if they are lucky enough to make a career out of the game in the future.

“It was a very 50-50 game to be fair, the referee was frustrating – to put it kindly,” said Farrell.

“But it is the same most weeks, and it’s a psychological thing. You know what referees are going to be like and you have to learn to focus.

“It will happen all through their careers if they are lucky enough to make it.

“You’ve got to double your concentration when you’ve scored – that is when any football team is most vulnerable.

“And we saw examples of that today. We will play better teams, no question.”