Pompey boss seeks to end Fratton counter-attacking

Fratton Park '“ a venue where Pompey have struggled to break sides down, while been susceptible to the counter-attack.

Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler

Not tonight, however.

For Paul Cook there is no necessity to win, no requirement to gamble, no reason to be caught out.

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Plymouth visit for this evening’s play-off first leg, a team which last month fled with a 2-1 victory.

Results show Pompey have enjoyed more success on the road this season than on their home turf.

That outcome has been influenced by the opposition’s approach to visiting Fratton.

Yet Cook is relaxed about how his side will be operating in the very different scenario of the play-offs.

He said: ‘The good thing for us is, in general, the bigger games of the season we have done okay in.

‘The fact is we have lost at home to teams who have sat off us and wanted to counter-attack.

‘In general, Oxford took control of the game early on and by the time we grasped control back they had a breakaway through Jordan Bowery and scored.

‘Plymouth, with all due respect, were on the back foot for large periods of the game but scored twice.

‘We offer ourselves up in every game, that is the reality of it.

‘If you watched the Northampton game, for example, we had a great spell in the second half with 10 men and were still trying to win.

‘A lot of teams set up to be negative.

‘Football is played in a million different ways.

‘One of the pleasing things about tonight is we don’t have to win, we have to qualify for Wembley, nobody cares how you qualify.

‘We don’t have to make our mistakes that will allow Plymouth to counter-attack.

‘The game could be a very challenging one for everyone.’

Defeat over the two-legged affair would be unthinkable for the Fratton faithful.

Having currently spent three seasons in the bottom division, there is no desire to extend that stay. Should Pompey’s play-off bid end in failure, however, Cook sees a bright future.

He added: ‘We have put a lot of things in place very quickly at this club.

‘We made a few mistakes along the way, made some good decisions along the way but I believe the future is very bright for this club.

‘We can now go into the market for players, cherry-picking the one or two we might need. Last year it was such drastic change that it wasn’t what a club should do.

‘Now I believe this club will get stronger over the next four, five, six years.

‘The fanbase doesn’t have to change, the infrastructure and training ground is there for everyone to see, the recruitment side of the game is now stepping up.

‘The most important thing now is to manage our expectation, manage our disappointment if it comes.

‘And knowing if we are in League Two next year we go to the starting blocks a lot stronger than we did last year.’