Cook: Promotion still Pompey target
Paul Cook insists Pompey's pre-season promotion target remains.
It’s a demand he concedes will now have to be achieved through the play-offs rather than automatically.
And the Blues boss believes their place can be all but booked with victory over Wycombe tomorrow.
Successive defeats have ended aspirations of finishing in League Two’s top three.
Instead, six-placed Pompey are looking over their shoulder at clubs potentially depriving them of a play-off position.
The Chairboys may be five points adrift of the Blues in the table, yet represent their closest threat.
The sights have been adjusted, but Cook is still determined to help the club escape from League Two.
He said: ‘I think automatic promotion has gone.
‘Other teams have been more consistent than us. We all have our times when we think we are better than someone else, but in my opinion league tables don’t lie.
‘What we have got to make sure now is to achieve the target.
‘The target at the start of the season was promotion, the target still realistically is promotion – but it looks like we will have to go through the play-offs to do that.
‘Once you get into the play-offs, if that is your target, you are on a level playing field with everyone.
‘So the most important thing for us now is let’s achieve that target.
‘If we win tomorrow it will put us in a very helpful position with three games to go.
‘If we lose to Wycombe the league will close up, the so-called pressure will develop on you.
‘The reality is if you win that game you are nigh on over the line.
‘I am not going to be stupid and say “win that and we are in the play-offs”.
‘But we would be in a very, very, very strong position with the goal difference we have and three games left.’
Pompey will take on a Wycombe side without a win in five matches.
Yet their eighth-placed opposition remain difficult to beat, with four of those fixtures resulting in draws.
Gareth Ainsworth’s team possess the best defensive record in League Two – but are also the fourth-lowest scorers.
The Chairboys lost in the play-off final last term and Cook believes they remain testing opposition.
He added: ‘Wycombe are a tough team, an opponent you wouldn’t want to face whether it be the play-offs, league or cup because they are a very committed team.
‘They have a style of football which is very, very effective.
‘Great credit to Gareth and his staff. Over a period of time they have gone from being relegation candidates to play-off contenders.
‘Last year they were very unfortunate not to go up automatically, so Gareth has done a very good job there.’