PAUL COOK called on Pompey to put their Oxford pain behind them and promised: Promotion is still on.
And he challenged his men to embrace the business end of the season as the pace picks up in League Two.
The Blues fell to a desperately disappointing loss to the U’s in Saturday’s promotion battle at Fratton Park.
That leaves Cook’s men seven points off the third automatic slot to go up – and 14 points off leaders Northampton.
The result provided the first major shift in focus towards an end-of-season play-off battle among fans.
Cook spoke of his and his players’ hurt in the aftermath of the loss.
But he is determined to keep that disappointment in context, with 20 games still to be played in the fight to go up.
Pompey now have an FA Cup date with Premier League Bournemouth to look forward to on Saturday.
Cook remains confident about how his side are shaping up as a unit as the campaign’s stakes begin to rise
He said: ‘The pendulum has swung for the moment.
‘A must win scenario is something we create. We lost on Saturday but can we still be promoted? Of course we can.
‘When there are 20 games to go it’s important to have a focus on winning as many games as we can.
‘When we travel to the likes of Morecambe it becomes more important.
‘The pressure will not intensify on the team because it grows on us all. It’s that time of the season.
‘The reality is, if your team is playing well, the likelihood is you’ll win games. We look balanced.
‘That’s what we’re here for. You win nothing in September and October.
‘But, as you start getting into February and March, you can see the end.
‘We’ve got a big week with the Bournemouth game now. We’re all here for this.’
The Blues’ form was good going into Saturday’s meeting with Oxford, with the side on a run of a single defeat in 13.
You had to go back to the draw with Stevenage in October for the last time a league goal was conceded at Fratton Park, before U’s striker Jordan Bowery struck with 14 minutes left on Saturday.
Conversely, Pompey have not put more than two league wins together this season.
Cook dismissed the impact of statistics, which he feels can be misleading.
But he acknowledged there has to be development in the Blues finding a way to put sides to the sword in tight games - something they’ve often come up short on.
‘You will always argue a point to make it suit you. Someone will always link a stat to a defeat,’ said Cook.
‘But you must find a way. When things go against you, you must find a way.
‘That’s something we’ve struggled with at certain points when we’ve allowed the opposition to dictate to us.
‘We must impose ourselves on them.’