Steve Cotterill believes Pompey’s display in the face of adversity is proof they have the character to drag themselves back into the play-off hunt.
The Blues’ hopes of a top-six finish took a serious blow after they went down to a 2-0 loss at Reading.
Shane Long’s double separated the sides, while Ricardo Rocha was sent off eight minutes before half-time for a professional foul.
The result left Cotterill’s men six points adrift of the final play-off position.
And they could soon be nine points off the pace if Reading win their game in hand against Preston tomorrow night.
While the Pompey boss felt the dismissal of Rocha was the key factor in his side’s defeat, defiant Cotterill saw enough spirit among his troops to insist his team has not yet written off a late run.
Cotterill said: ‘We were the better team and with 11 men we would have won that game.
‘It’s a bitter pill to swallow but you’ve got to take it, you’ve got to deal with it and take it on the chin.
‘It’s how we bounce back because we can’t do anything about that game now.
‘But I thought they showed great spirit and great togetherness.
‘When you are down to 10 men and everything seems to be against you – that’s when you find out if you’ve got great spirit and you’ve got mates.
‘It’s easy when you are 3-0 or 4-0 up to go around high-fiving everyone.
‘But you have to dig deep, reach down to the pit of your gut to find the strength that even you don’t know you’ve got.
‘We’ve got seven games to go and we’ve made it a lot more difficult for ourselves.
‘But I’m still thinking about the play-offs.
‘If we had won, it wouldn’t have meant we were in the play-offs and this defeat doesn’t mean we’re out of it.’
Realistically, Pompey now need to win at least six of their remaining seven games to stand a chance, starting with next weekend’s home clash against Preston.
But Cotterill believes it is testament to his side’s efforts that the play-offs are still even being discussed as a target.
He said: ‘It’s good we’re still even talking about the play-offs.
‘Let’s remember this club came out of administration in November.
‘We’ve got to make sure our fans are right up for it next week and our lads are right up for it as well.
‘We’ve got a week now to make sure we prepare right for the Preston game, lick our wounds and get ourselves ready to go again.’