ANDY AWFORD warned his players: The pressure’s on.
The Pompey boss is adamant his team’s season won’t drift to a disappointing conclusion ahead of the visit of high-flying Shrewsbury Town tomorrow.
Last Saturday’s loss at AFC Wimbledon looked to kill any lingering Blues hopes of making the League Two play-offs with eight games left.
The gap to the top seven is nine points going into the clash with Micky Mellon’s side at Fratton Park.
Awford is insistent, however, there is much to play for and be decided before the end of the season in May.
Pompey have 11 players out of contract this summer, while Josh Passley, Paul McCallum, Cole Kpekawa, Nyron Nosworthy and David Cornell are all on loan.
The Blues boss has spoken to his players to make it clear there are standards to meet – and they weren’t reached last weekend at the Dons.
Awford said: ‘The pressure isn’t off – the pressure’s on.
‘I don’t want the pressure off. I want us to perform in every game, so the next game brings pressure.
‘We had a conversation on Monday and Tuesday about making sure the season doesn’t peter out.
‘How do we do that? There’s 15,000-plus fans, or more, who turn out at home and there’s a massive away following.
‘That’s what comes with being a part of this club and is the motivation.
‘I said to the players three games ago, there’s still a quarter of the fixtures to go.
‘There’s still eight games to go – that’s a massive chunk of the season.
‘We’ve not mentioned the play-offs all season. I haven’t set targets.
‘The only target has been the next game.
‘Since Christmas, I’ve been consistent in saying we’re looking at the next game. It’s the same with the players.
‘We can only affect the next game. We have to get as many points as we can and finish as high up the table as we can.
‘There will be 15,000-plus at the game tomorrow. We have a duty to those supporters. You have to perform for them.
‘That’s the club. It’s the supporters who make the club tick. They are the heartbeat.
‘There’s pressure on every game because we have perform for them. It’s as simple as that.’
Awford is pumped up for the arrival of Shrewsbury, who are looking for automatic promotion to League One.
He feels the game has all the hallmarks of an occasion with decent intensity.
‘It feels like a big game. Shrewsbury are a decent club in this league,’ said Awford.
‘The Luton game was a good advert for League Two football and this feels like it could be the same.
‘So I’m looking forward to it and I’m upbeat about it.
‘The players are, too. I can see it in training this week.
‘They know they didn’t do so well last week. We’re hoping it’s a one-off and we’re sure it will be, so we’re ready to go again.’