Pompey boss salutes side’s character after superb response

Pompey manager Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey manager Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

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A WEEK earlier they slumped to a convincing defeat at relegation-bound York City.

Last night Paul Cook’s believes his side’s true character shone through as Pompey maintained their excellent Bootham Crescent response.

I know football, I am not being clever, and our lads don’t lack character

Paul Cook

The Blues won 1-0 at AFC Wimbledon last night, Michael Smith grabbing the decisive goal, his fourth for the club.

That meant successive wins since that demoralising defeat against the Minstermen. Most crucial of all, they had occurred over play-off rivals.

Suddenly Pompey have qualified for the play-offs and – surely beyond them – lie five points off automatic promotion.

It’s been the perfect reaction to successive defeats against Plymouth and York which effectively ended interest in the top-three.

And the Pompey boss is convinced it is down to the terrific character of his side.

Cook said: ‘I know football, I am not being clever, and our lads don’t lack character.

‘Last night was a big game for us because people question the character of the side every now and then.

‘You don’t leave places like Wimbledon winning 1-0, keeping a clean sheet and creating the chances we did without having character. I would never level that at our players.

‘A lot was said after the York game, there was a lot of criticism and a natural feeling we had thrown it away – and they have responded with two magnificent wins.

‘Great credit to the players and I have great confidence in them.

‘We have cemented our place in the play-offs and I am delighted with us, I really am.’

Wimbledon had won five successive matches heading into last night’s Kingsmeadow encounter.

They also contained former Fratton Park players Paul Robinson and Andy Barcham in their side as they attempted to secure their own play-off aspirations.

Yet an injury-hit Pompey team dug in to grind out a gritty victory, with Christian Burgess outstanding at the centre of defence.

There were opportunities to extend their lead, yet Smith’s 35th-minute strike following Gary Roberts’ pass was the difference.

Cook added: ‘I thought we were excellent from start to finish, we created all the clear-cut chances in the game, were positive in our play and got men forward on a very difficult pitch to play.

‘Wimbledon are probably one of the in-form teams in the league so great credit to the players.

‘The players to a man were excellent.’

The Blues travel to Hartlepool on Saturday before facing champions Northampton in the final match of the league campaign – then the play-offs kick in.