PAUL COOK praised Pompey goal hero Conor Chaplin and admitted: I should probably have given him more game time this season.
The popular young striker came off the bench and seven minutes later scored what proved to be the winning goal against Wycombe Wanderers at Fratton Park on Saturday.
Cook made a double substitution on the hour mark, with Chaplin and Kieron Freeman coming on.
It was a positive move and both replacements played their part in the victory.
Chaplin’s goal added to Gary Roberts’ first-half opener.
And after Wycombe had reduced their deficit to 2-1, Freeman hacked an effort off the line.
Victory means Pompey are now virtually certain of a place in the League Two play-offs and Chaplin has again underlined his quality.
Cook said: ‘We’ve no hidden thing about Conor.
‘Conor should have had probably more minutes on the pitch.
‘I was determined to make positive substitutions in the game, I wasn’t going to wait for six minutes and four minutes and stuff like that.
‘Conor’s goal record will always stand up against any other striker.
‘It’s what Conor does really well.
‘He is a vital member of our squad and someone we can turn to at any time.
‘You’d have great confidence in Conor to do well.
‘Our lads have all got character, you can’t play everyone.
‘That’s the disappointing thing with football, you can’t keep everyone happy.
‘Certainly Conor will take plaudits and rightly so.
‘Conor is a good player. He caused Wycombe problems, so did Marc McNulty and Gary Roberts with their movement.
‘We scored good goals, great goals.
‘There was a spell in the first half when we were unplayable.
‘We have to get more goals then but great credit to the players.’
Roberts netted the opening goal on 37 minutes and Wycombe couldn’t get near him throughout the match.
He could have had a hat-trick.
Cook added: ‘Gary is a fantastic player for us.
‘I think we have probably missed him too much this season at vital times with injuries and that.
‘He is a big-game player, he has a way of affecting every game he plays in, whether it be a goal or an assist.
‘Gary is probably very disappointed because he had other chances in the game to kill the game off and we never took them.’
Ahead of Tuesday’s trip to possible play-off rivals AFC Wimbledon, Pompey now have a six-point cushion over eighth-placed Cambridge.
The Blues have a goal difference of plus 29.
Cambridge only have two matches to play with a goal difference of plus 11, so there is no realistic chance of them catching Cook’s men.