STAND-IN boss Guy Whittingham has warned Pompey they must become mentally stronger if they want to haul themselves out of their losing streak.
A 2-0 defeat at Bury at the weekend made it five successive losses for the managerless Blues.
With Whittingham and Andy Awford taking charge for the first time at Gigg Lane on Saturday, the caretaker duo could not halt a slump which has seen them drop to 18th in the League One table.
They are now just two points off the relegation zone and haven’t scored for 399 minutes – a worrying slide with the anticipated 10-point deduction still to be enforced.
Whittingham believes the players need to tighten up mentally if they are to change all that.
He said: ‘This is a mental thing and you have got to work on that during the week.
‘Physically, we have got Chris Neville who is the England strength and conditioning coach, so it is nothing to do with that.
‘It’s the mentality that we are in League One, so we have to play more physically, we have to be up for the fight, we have to be more demanding of each other.
‘I thought we saw that problem at the beginning of the second half.
‘Bury’s manager (Kevin Blackwell) obviously had a word with them and said they weren’t doing well enough. We probably did well first half and they were disappointed with theirs, despite going in 1-0 up.
‘It’s not necessarily about being nasty, it’s just being determined.
‘You are saying to people don’t accept things, don’t accept you are getting pushed off the ball, don’t accept that somebody is beating you at something, don’t accept that somebody is being allowed to pass the ball somewhere.
‘And if someone is having a go at you or someone is trying to say something to you, accept it, get on with it – because it’s for the whole good of the football team and the football club.
‘It’s a problem we haven’t seen only in Saturday’s game – it’s something we have seen in the last half a dozen games.’
There were 806 travelling fans present to witness Pompey’s latest defeat.
Whittingham’s men could barely muster a shot on goal during the entire match.
The latest disappointing display, however, didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of that vociferous away support.
Whittingham added: ‘Every defeat is bad and if the supporters thought we just chucked it in they wouldn’t have applauded us at the end.
‘They made me smile the way they were going around the whole stand congaing, they are just absolutely unbelievable.
‘The lads said it after the game: ‘you have just got to look at that lot and they have got to inspire you”.
‘They cheer you when you do well and not so well and everybody went up there at the end to show their appreciation.’