Drew Talbot believes there were plenty of positives for Pompey to take from their Checkatrade Trophy win over Bristol Rovers last night – not least the game’s competitive nature.
The defender enjoyed his first outing for the Blues since August, having endured a prolonged spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Many, including the masses who stayed away from Fratton Park last night to ensure a post-war record low attendance of 1,200, were quick to write off the tie as an unwelcome distraction for Paul Cook’s side.
But returning Talbot felt the 1-0 win proved itself a worthwhile encounter for a number of reasons.
He said: ‘It was a really good game.
‘The Checkatrade Trophy has attracted a bit of bad press and certain things have been said about it.
‘But last night didn’t feel like one of those nothing games, it was a full-blooded affair and there were some good tackles going in.
‘It was a good game to be involved in, especially on a personal level.
‘To get 90 minutes under my belt was nice and it’s just what I needed.’
With minutes at a premium in Pompey’s talented squad, the 30-year-old full-back was quick to defend the Blues’ decision to ring the changes, an action that will result in another fine.
Rovers themselves were cute to avoid punishment, substituting goalkeeper Kelle Roos after three minutes to bypass player-restriction rulings.
Talbot said: ‘The gaffer used some players who haven’t had a lot of minutes but our squad is so good that it’s not like we are putting a weaker side out, although we might get punished for that.
‘Bristol Rovers’ goalkeeper got subbed last night for them to avoid a fine, which I totally respect.
‘They are probably thinking this competition is not what they need but we are taking it seriously.
‘We went out there to be professional and we won the game.’
On the field, Talbot gave his backing to striker Michael Smith after his early penalty miss – and also sung the praises of match-winner Kal Naismith.
He said: ‘Michael is a grown man who won and took the penalty himself.
‘To be fair he put it in the corner and the keeper saved it well.
‘It takes a lot of character to step up there and we all miss sometimes.
‘As for Kal, his strike was a great one – he had a go just before that and the keeper fumbled it over the bar.
‘He has scored some great goals for us – the one at Coventry earlier in the season comes to mind.
‘He probably thought: “Why not?”
‘These balls move all over the place.’
Most pleasing of all, though, for Talbot was the Blues’ clean sheet.
He added: ‘It was important to keep a clean sheet – we have highlighted in weeks gone by the goals we have conceded that we shouldn’t.
‘So to keep a clean sheet was like scoring a goal for us in the defence.’