Paul Cook expressed his surprise at Colchester’s Fratton Park tactics but denied the decision to bring Pompey marksman Conor Chaplin off the bench was influenced by fans’ calls for the teenage talent.
The Blues were indebted to a late double from Gary Roberts as they picked up a first win of the League Two campaign at the fourth time of asking.
But it was the introduction of Chaplin – alongside fellow striker Noel Hunt – on the hour mark that helped the hosts to break down a stubborn Colchester side.
That the visitors, who arrived on the south coast in second spot in the early table, set up in such defensive fashion was a shock to Cook.
But Pompey’s manager conceded it is each team’s prerogative to set up in whichever manner they see fit – and he was not criticising counterpart John McGreal’s gameplan.
He said: ‘I actually thought Colchester would come and have a game with us.
‘That’s why we stayed with our formation.
‘But they never – and I am not criticising Colchester.
‘They have come to win a game of football, but they have made changes from winning on Tuesday night.
‘They are sitting above us in the league so I am not disrespecting or criticising Colchester – this is what teams do now at Fratton Park.
‘We played against Carlisle here and they took their forwards off and just put 10 men behind the ball.
‘So let’s not criticise our own players because we have got an ethos or get after the manager over tactics.
‘Let’s speak about what we are going to do to break it down – and we must do something different for sure.’
Part of Cook’s thinking to break down a stubborn U’s side was to introduce Chaplin and Hunt in a double move.
It was a decision that was a popular one at Fratton Park with the crowd chanting for Chaplin’s involvement for a 10-minute spell before he entered the fray.
Cook joked that if he was to react to fans’ chants then he would be needing more than the three allotted substitutions.
The manager, however, was quick to sing his own praises, playfully brandishing himself a ‘tactical genius’ for the double substitution.
He said: ‘Conor and Hunty were always coming on on 60 minutes.
‘If I reacted to everything the fans said I’d need 26 subs!
‘But we have got goals – Conor is a goalscorer.
‘And you know, I am just really pleased for us – it was a good win for everyone at the club and we should enjoy it.
‘We used about 16 different formations – I tried a diamond, a loop, all of them.
‘I am a tactical genuis now!’
– JEFF MARSHMAN