Cook: Players’ hard work fits our aims

Pompey celebrate their late winner at Grimsby Town Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey celebrate their late winner at Grimsby Town Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey defender Jack Whatmough Picture: Joe Pepler

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Fitness has handed Pompey an edge – and for Paul Cook the statistics don’t lie.

The Blues’ Boxing Day onslaught against Newport County was rewarded with a remarkable comeback and late victory.

A fortnight earlier there was an 87th-minute winner at Grimsby, while in November an 82nd-minute leveller at Cheltenham.

Meanwhile, late Fratton Park goals against nine-man Mansfield secured a 4-0 success.

Paul Cook’s side have developed an important penchant for finishing matches strongly.

They may not necessarily always lead to goals, yet Pompey have learnt how to apply pressure towards the culmination of matches.

It’s a trait their manager credits with impressive fitness levels and the players’ dedication to hard work.

And Cook is delighted with the continued training ground efforts of his squad.

He said: ‘A lot of people only see Saturday afternoon, they don’t realise the work that goes on towards that.

‘That’s why we keep praising our lads.

‘It’s because of the work they put in in relation to trying to get success.

‘On days the first team are not playing, the lads work exceptionally hard so when they come into the side it is not a problem.

‘It’s not just about saying “let’s get promoted”.

‘You also have to work to get promoted and our lads are doing okay at the minute in all aspects of it.

‘We are not interested in how fit other teams are, we are just interested in our own lads and them being fit – and I think fitness is huge in football.

‘You need to be able to trust your players to last matches.

‘We have conceded one goal in the last 30 minutes of league games, which was away at Blackpool.

‘Last year we were conceding a lot of late goals.

‘We are doing exactly the same things, though.

‘It has been exactly the same pre-season, the training schedules are the same, it’s just repetition of what we do.

‘Sometimes you can only trust your players – and ours work hard.’

Pompey’s biggest problem at present remains overhauling teams at Fratton Park.

Irrespective of fitness, it has long been a headache, with Luton Town visiting tomorrow.

And Cook is hoping to once again get on top.

He added: ‘People go on about pressing teams. How long can a team press for?

‘We want teams to come on to us but we still get on top of teams in every game we play, which wasn’t the case last year.

‘That is great credit to the players. When you see the work they do and hours they put in, they deserve praise.’