Stevenage 0 Pompey 2: Cook vows identity crisis is over

Pompey celebrate their opening goal from Marc McNulty, far right, in Saturday's 2-0 win at Stevenage    Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate their opening goal from Marc McNulty, far right, in Saturday's 2-0 win at Stevenage Picture: Joe Pepler
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Paul Cook believes victory at Stevenage heralded the return of Pompey’s identity.

And the Blues boss promised he would not send his side out to eke out results over the season’s finale.

Pompey narrowed the gap on the top three to nine points with a 2-0 victory at the Lamex Stadium.

Cook’s side have a game in hand over third-placed Plymouth against Accrington Stanley tomorrow.

And he feels Pompey go into that clash with a clearer sense of self after their weekend display.

Cook was not comfortable with what he witnessed from his side at Exeter City last Tuesday,

That means his dalliance with playing in a more rugged fashion has now been put to bed.

Cook said: ‘We had our identity again, that was clear for all to see.

‘We know what we are trying to do – we’re trying to play. We haven’t had that the last couple of games.

‘We’ve wanted results – and just wanting results? Nah, it’s not for me.

‘I watched us against Exeter the other night and I didn’t enjoy it and I didn’t enjoy watching Portsmouth.

‘It’s not for me. I’ll take criticism, but if we are going to get beat we’ll get beat playing with a bit of style.

‘The pitch was very difficult but we handled it well.

‘We could have won three or four. We could’ve scored more.

‘We wouldn’t have deserved it, but, at those stages when teams come on to us, that’s what we’re supposed to do.’

It wasn’t particularly pretty for long periods on Saturday as the game was played out on a heavy pitch.

The rain teemed down in the second half as conditions deteriorated.

But Kal Naismith doubled the lead with eight minutes left after Marc McNulty opened the scoring in the first half.

That daylight made it a largely comfortable six minutes of stoppage-time for Pompey fans.

Cook joked he didn’t feel the same, however, but was pleased to see his side playing the way he wants and gaining in confidence.

He said: ‘Was I comfortable at the end? I manage Portsmouth Football Club!

‘When the ref said there was 10 seconds after the last corner I felt they’d struggle to score two, but I wasn’t relaxed until then!

‘My job is to manage the expectation and not every day is a good day, but Saturday was.

‘Now we have to bring that spirit and style of play back to the club.

‘Everyone wants to beat us and everyone wants to be above us.

‘To deal with that we have to have a belief in what we’re doing. I felt we had a bit of our identity back.

‘The game was about everything we are as a club.’

Another major plus point for Pompey was seeing the first clean sheet arrive in 11 games.

That run stretches back to the success over Crawley at the start of January. That was a major shot in the arm for teenage keeper Ryan Fulton.

The Liverpool loanee can count himself hard done by to have not picked up a shutout sooner.

Cook said: ‘Ryan is a great kid.

‘He’s one of the lads you love working with.

‘He has such a desire to succeed.

‘He’s part of a Portsmouth team, but that doesn’t faze him.’