The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE TWO - By Liam But­ter­worth

PORTSMOUTH man­ager Paul Cook is urg­ing his side to keep plug­ging away af­ter cap­ping a strong week with an away win at Steve­nage.

The 2-0 re­sult, sealed by sub­sti­tute Kal Nai­smith’s 81stminute goal, en­sured Pom­pey picked up seven points in three games in­side a week and kept chas­ing a play-off spot ahead of Tues­day’s match against fourth­placed Ac­cring­ton Stan­ley.

Portsmouth re­main in fifth, now just a point be­hind Ac­cring­ton, and Cook is de­lighted with the way his team are shap­ing up.

Cook said:“We just keep go­ing, just keep go­ing.

“A week used to be a long time in foot­ball but now it’s a cou­ple of days.

“In my play­ing ca­reer we played against teams from Portsmouth who had a swag­ger and that’s the team I want to cre­ate.

“We’re a long way from those days, I know that, but we tried to play foot­ball in the right way, we didn’t say the pitch was dif­fi­cult and I felt in the goals we scored there were glimpses of qual­ity in the team.”

Nai­smith had only been on the pitch for 11 min­utes when he was played in on goal by Kyle Ben­nett and made no mis­take to fire past Boro goal­keeper Jamie Jones.

His change was part of a dou­ble switch in at­tack, com­ing on with Michael Smith, to re­place the ex­cel­lent Gary Roberts and Marc McNulty, who had chal­lenged Steve­nage’s de­fence all af­ter­noon.

It was that com­bi­na­tion who had given Portsmouth the lead on 21 min­utes, Roberts catch­ing Lee Cox in pos­ses­sion in mid­field and then slid­ing a ball through for McNulty to grab his 11th of the term. Roberts was the star of the show and was un­lucky not to have a goal of his own on 57 min­utes as he was de­nied at close range by Jones, who was called into ac­tion a minute later to tip Michael Doyle’s long-range strike over the bar.

Steve­nage hit the cross­bar late on through the ex­cel­lent Tom Con­lon, who was un­lucky not to con­vert any of his four good chances on goal, but it was the sole high point in a match dom­i­nated by Portsmouth.

Boro care­taker man­ager Dar­ren Sarll didn’t hold back, adamant his squad needed to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for their lack­lus­tre per­for­mance and their third straight loss.

“I think we, as a group and squad, have to ac­cept the re­spon­si­bil­ity of this per­for­mance as we do as eas­ily when we get wins,” said Sarll, with Steve­nage slip­ping to 21st in the ta­ble.

“We can say ‘that’s nowhere near the level we want’, and ‘we’re not go­ing to give any­one else a free ride’, and we are go­ing to make sure we take care of our own des­tiny.

“With 11 games to go, there are loads of points to play for and I’m never go­ing to look down, I'm al­ways go­ing to be striv­ing to move up and the play­ers need to em­brace that men­tal­ity and move for­ward with us as well. “I think any­thing other than crit­i­cism for our­selves would be a false pre­tence for the peo­ple lis­ten­ing.”


STRAN­GLE-HOLD: Portsmouth play­ers get to grips with Kal Nai­smith af­ter get­ting the match­set­tling se­cond

HEAD OVER HEELS: Michael Tonge of Steve­nage goes close to a goal

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