Paul Cook hailed his shadow men as Pompey gave Reading a Capital One Cup scare.
The Blues made eight changes for last night’s Fratton Park visit of the Championship side.
You are playing a top Championship team in front of 18,000, but I wasn’t scared of playing any of themPaul Cook
Yet it took Garath McCleary’s goal six minutes from time to see them off as Steve Clarke’s side scrambled to a 2-1 victory.
A bumper crowd of 18,190 witnessed a pulsating contest in which Conor Chaplin gave the hosts the lead.
And Cook was full of praise for those fringe players who stepped into the side and performed so impressively.
He said: ‘We are a good side now.
‘I feel we have balance, I feel we have strength in depth, I feel we have a lot of qualities within the group.
‘What we must show is an appetite for the game, not an appetite for big games but an appetite for every game.
‘Getting rid of the reserve team was a blow, I have gone on record saying that.
‘These lads need to play regularly.
‘Maybe I can get one or two out on loan if possible after Exeter but we have a really good blend to the team and that’s so important.
‘You are playing a top Championship team in front of 18,000 but I wasn’t scared of playing any of them.
‘Conor was excellent, so was Ben Close, Adam Webster, these are really good players and everybody is working hard to try to get us all success.
‘Everyone is playing their part and long may it continue.’
Chaplin, Close, Webster, Brandon Haunstrup, Paul Jones, Danny Hollands, Adam McGurk and Jayden Stockley were all given recalls and James Dunne came off the bench.