Andy Awford toasted a ‘big’ three points – and paid tribute to the character of the players who made it all possible.
The Blues boss’ position had come under scrutiny among supporters following the weekend 3-0 defeat at Bury which extended a disappointing run to one win in nine League Two games.
His response was to scrap the wing-backs against Stevenage last night, field a 4-4-2 formation and enforce six chances.
The players reacted by picking up a 3-2 victory, with Joe Devera the unlikely 79th-minute match-winner and Jed Wallace and Miles Storey also netting.
Along the way they had to fight back from falling behind to Dean Wells’ 23rd-minute opener, while also lost one lead through a Devera defensive mistake.
Nonetheless, victory lifted Pompey into 11th spot and for Awford demonstrated to the Fratton faithful the players’ desire.
He said: ‘It’s a start. Hopefully we can build on that now. It’s a big three points for us.
‘I think we are mentally strong as a group. I think we are fit. I think we have a fantastic bond and a fantastic spirit which comes from the back of last year.
‘The nucleus of the squad got that going and the new lads we have brought in have added to that and we will give anyone a game when we are at it.
‘Unfortunately Saturday we weren’t at it. It was a bad day at the office but last night we were at it and are a match for anybody.
‘That is the mentality that we will have to have, sometimes it won’t be pretty, that is the league, that is what happens in League Two and League One.
‘I had a bit of a pop at them at half-time because we shouldn’t have been level.
‘I told them that is why we are not where we should be, that is why we don’t get enough points.
‘Character is the word, the reaction we got in abundance, but the character in the group of players is there for everybody to see and they have stood up.
‘I said after the game on Saturday they needed to stand up to be counted – and all of us have.’
Wells’ opener for the visitors followed a corner and stunned Fratton Park, turning minds towards the prospect of another defeat.
Instead the Blues responded with Wallace’s equaliser and dictated the rest of the match to run out deserved winners.
Awford added: ‘We were okay in the first half, although I was very disappointed with the goal, I have to say that, we can’t concede goals like that.
‘Forget the second one, that was an individual error and you cannot legislate for that, nobody can, they happen from time-to-time.
‘But the set-piece we have to do a lot better with and if it kickstarted them, it kickstarted them, but it shouldn’t take a goal against to kickstart us.
‘We have got to be on the front foot, which I thought we were anyway. We grew into the game and got going. I thought we were well worthy of the three points.’