KAI’S THE GUY FOR POMPEY!
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