Michael Doyle will tomorrow be unleashed on Mansfield.
And Paul Cook believes Pompey’s FA Cup elimination demonstrated how their skipper’s aggressive edge can be missed.
If Michael was in the team I wouldn’t have expected that performancePaul Cook
The veteran midfielder returns following a one-match suspension, having amassed five yellow cards.
He will replace Ben Close in the side which suffered a Cup exit at the hands of Wycombe last weekend.
In Doyle’s absence, Cook branded the opening 45 minutes against the Chairboys as the worst during his time as boss.
The match finished in a disappointing 2-1 defeat.
And Cook insists the former Coventry City man’s worth was shown by how the side fared without his presence.
He said: ‘You have a way of playing and there are key areas of the pitch for us.
‘Central midfield is a key area in terms of how we play and, obviously, when you lose a player of Michael’s quality you are always light.
‘He gives us that competitive edge.
‘The performance in the first half against Wycombe was way off and I take all the blame for the players, that is my job as manager.
‘But if Michael was in the team I wouldn’t have expected that performance.
‘There is criteria how we play the game, the lads go through this with us, it’s what you call buying into what we do.
‘We play off our front foot, you don’t take backwards steps at Fratton Park.
‘Michael is now over his suspension, there are 31 games to go.
‘There are no excuses in terms of travelling or re-arranged games following cup competitions.
‘If we are not promoted this year or we don’t finish in the top three it will be for one reason – we are not good enough.
‘There will be no excuses offered by me and the players.’
The Blues served up a worringly lethargic display against Wycombe to deservedly lose.
For Cook, Pompey returned to the mindset he knows they are capable in the midweek Checkatrade Trophy victory over Bristol Rovers.
And he has urged them to attack from the off against the Stags tomorrow.
‘On Tuesday we got a penalty after six minutes because we were off our front foot – we didn’t start like that against Wycombe,’ added Cook.
‘We have a way of playing, but the lads have an ability to come off it and you wonder how.
‘This is what we are trying to instil within the club. If someone is good enough to beat you that’s fine, but you are beaten playing the right way.
‘We should always take the fight to the opposition, you cannot fight in your own half. Against Wycombe it slipped dramatically and you lower your guard.
‘The personnel within our team can change, but the job spec doesn’t.’