Rocha: Fatigue behind Boro blank

Ricardo Rocha in action against Middlesbrough on Saturday
Ricardo Rocha in action against Middlesbrough on Saturday
Milan Lalkovic in pre-season action against the Hawks

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Ricardo Rocha believes the number of games may just have caught up with Pompey’s threadbare squad.

The Blues looked jaded in Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough, particularly in the second half when the recent hectic run of fixtures appeared to take its toll.

It’s been a huge effort from a squad which has lacked depth all season.

And Portuguese centre-back Rocha conceded that fatigue may have played a part in denting Pompey’s hopes of another home victory.

He said: ‘Maybe fatigue played a part a little bit. We’ve had a lot of games and a lot of tough games in there.

‘We have given our best for each other and maybe we felt that a little bit in the second half against Middlesbrough.

‘But we always give our best and try to win the games. It just didn’t happen this time and we had to settle for a point.’

While it was disappointing not to collect another three points, the silver lining was another clean sheet for Rocha and the rest of the defence who have excelled in recent weeks.

While others may be feeling the strain of a long season, Rocha is thriving with regular games.

He said: ‘We know that the best thing is to get clean sheets.

‘If you can get a clean sheet, you can still score a goal in the 90th minute.

‘We’ve been training hard to do that because we didn’t have so many in the past.

‘But we had a good run with six games without conceding. Then it was good to get another one against Middlesbrough.

‘It’s our job not to concede goals so we need to keep doing that.

‘As a defender, we have to do our job. Then the midfield and the strikers have to do their job.

‘It’s not easy for anyone: for us to not concede and for the forwards to score the goals. But everyone does their best for the team.

‘Everybody has done well – Ritchie de Laet, Hermann Hreidarsson and Jamie Ashdown. The results show that.

‘We just need to keep earning the gaffer’s confidence and keep doing our job.

‘I’ve been playing my best and, physically, I feel perfect.

‘For me to play in every game and two games per week is good. I’m enjoying it a lot.’

Rocha’s pairing with Greg Halford has looked a solid combination in Pompey’s recent run.

But the defender admits boss Steve Cotterill faces a tough selection task.

He said: ‘It’s a good partnership with Greg and I enjoy playing with him.

‘He is a very good player – as are Aaron Mokoena and Ibrahima Sonko.

‘It’s not an easy choice for the gaffer. It must be difficult for him at the moment but everyone does their best in training and the gaffer has to pick the team.’