Pompey boss defends sweeping changes for cup tie

Paul Cook said Kyle Bennett was 'breathtaking at times' against Coventry. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Cook said Kyle Bennett was 'breathtaking at times' against Coventry. Picture: Joe Pepler
Matty Kennedy. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey 1 Southend 0: They said what

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Paul Cook backed his decision to rip up Pompey’s starting line-up for a fixture which ended in their EFL Cup elimination.

For last night’s trip to Coventry, the Blues boss made 11 changes to the team held to a 1-1 draw by Carlisle last weekend.

Alex Bass joined Curtis Main, Tom Davies, Adam Buxton and Amine Linganzi in making their bows, while Gareth Evans returned from injury.

In addition, the transfer-listed Kal Naismith featured at left-back and responded with a stunning free-kick leveller to take the Ricoh Arena clash into extra-time.

Tony Mowbray’s League One outfit eventually ran out 3-2 winners through Andy Rose’s 106th-minute strike.

Yet Cook was delighted with the attitude and application demonstrated by a revamped side skippered by Adam Barton.

And he reiterated it was a selection driven by the necessity to focus on league promotion rather than cup progression.

He said: ‘With all due respect, I will not shirk decisions.

‘I am not going to be a manager who does that at this club.

‘We are a massive football club doing our best to get out of the league.

‘Our priority this year must be for our main players in name at the minute to be on the pitch in those games and I will stick to that.

‘Great credit to our supporters who turned up but we all know the priority and I think if we all stay on that page then we will be okay.

‘Coventry made three changes and it meant a lot to them to win last night.

‘Good luck, every club has different priorities, I don’t mind that.

‘The reality for us is this competition is not our priority, albeit last year we enjoyed a couple of big games. The same goes for the EFL Trophy.

‘If teams want to beat us and if, unfortunately, we are not good enough to win then I’ll accept that. The league is our bread and butter and priority.’

Main had given the Blues a first-half lead, only for Ryan Haynes and Vladimir Gadzhev to net after the break.

And Cook admitted he was impressed with those called into the first team.

He added: ‘Curtis was good, Kyle Bennett was breathtaking at times, it was nice for Amine to show some qualities and I was really pleased with Alex Bass and Adam May.

‘It was disappointing to lose but to take a club like Coventry into the depths of extra-time was not too bad.

‘They are a good team and you can see if you play with two up front at times against good teams who pass the ball then you don’t get the ball back.

‘In extra-time we had five minutes with two up top and couldn’t get the ball back and that sometimes is what people don’t realise.

‘Every team has a different style of playing and I enjoy our identity at the minute. I enjoy the way we play with a swagger and a smile.’