Barker: Mental strength is growing

Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Richie Barker. Picture: Joe Pepler
Curtis Main celebrates his winner against Charlton in the Checkatrade Trophy with Kal Naismith and Conor Chaplin. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Richie Barker insists his Pompey side have now gained some important mental strength as they took an important step towards League Two safety.

Although it was a far from vintage display, the Blues stood firm in the face of a late onslaught to claim a gutsy 1-0 win over AFC Wimbledon and give themselves some vital breathing space in the battle to beat the drop.

Victory lifted them up to 17th place in the table and ensured they now have a seven-point cushion over second-bottom Torquay, although most teams below them have games in hand.

But after throwing away victory in the final seconds at Exeter a week earlier, it was a crucial step as the Blues negotiated a tense finalé to pick up a much-needed win at Fratton Park.

Barker said: ‘We’ve come a long way in a short space of time.

‘The players would have been excused if they’d had an eye on what happened last week when we conceded with the last kick of the game.

‘Those last five minutes seemed to go on for a while.

‘It was a lot like last weekend at Exeter where we were hanging on at the end.

‘You are always worried that the same thing could happen again.

‘But I feel like we are getting there with that mental strength and desire.

‘We are starting to see some characters standing up.

‘People were throwing themselves in the way of things.

‘Everybody stood up to be counted.

‘Would we have won that game a few weeks ago? I’m not so sure we would.

‘Now that mental desire and ability to see games through will hopefully come through more and more.’

In windy conditions and on a pitch that has suffered badly in recent weeks, it was another poor display from Barker’s troops in the opening 45 minutes as they created just one meaningful shot at goal.

After Ryan Taylor headed home early in the second half, they failed to go on and dominate the game once again but the key difference was that they ground it out to hang on for the win this time.

Barker said: ‘Was it entertaining? Not really, in terms of technical ability.

‘But it was never going to be. It’s the middle of February on a pitch that has had buckets of rain on it over the past few weeks.

‘Sometimes it’s about rolling your sleeves up and showing your wish to win the game.

‘I think the fans appreciated that and they played their part.

‘It’s a results-based game. People keep telling me it’s about moving the ball quickly or work-rate.

‘At the end of the day, I don’t think some of this game was much different to the past few matches – other than we won it and people went home happy this time.

‘Nobody is getting carried away. I won’t allow that to happen. It is one result.’