Cook lays down new year target for Pompey

Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey boss Paul Cook. Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe in action against Bury. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Paul Cook has set Pompey a top-three target for the new year.

And the Blues boss believes the ‘luxury’ of having just the league to focus on will prove a huge boost in their bid for promotion.

Cook’s side embark on a run of four games in December –and six fixtures in four weeks – at Grimsby this weekend.

The gap to the automatic promotion slots increased from five to seven points at the weekend as Doncaster move to the top of the table.

But Plymouth Argyle had a seven-point lead at the top a fortnight ago before losing three League Two fixtures in a week.

That saw the Pilgrims knocked off their perch by Carlisle United – who in turn have now been usurped by Darren Ferguson’s side.

Cook feels that indicates how there is certain to be many twists and turns in the battle to go up in 2017.

He wants his side to be in a strong position when the new year arrives.

Cook said: ‘If you looked at Plymouth a couple of weeks ago they were uncatchable.

‘Now they’re catchable. Tell me something I don’t know.

‘It’s 19 games in and everyone’s asking who will go up. No-one knows.

‘We’ve got a run of games coming up now where you need consistency in what you do and to keep putting points on the board.

‘Everyone will try to do that and get to where they deserve to be this season.

‘We’re going into a busy period when the games come thick and fast. We have to do things right between the games and get the recovery right.

‘Coming into January we would like to do our best to be in the top three.’

Pompey have made the most of not having a fixture as teams battled it out in the second round of the FA Cup over the weekend.

The Blues don’t have the distraction of cup competitions after their loss to Wycombe last month on top of EFL Cup and Checkatrade Trophy exits.

Cook felt cup success had an impact on his side last term – and he feels games away from the league will be an issue for Pompey’s rivals.

He said: ‘Everything is planned out. We’ve gone out to watch some games, look at other teams and players with January coming up.

‘The games are coming thick and fast. The teams left in the Checkatrade Trophy and other cups, it will catch up with them. It does.

‘We’ve got that luxury now of being able to concentrate on the league. It’s what I wanted.

‘That’s a massive luxury. There’s no pressure.

‘We had a fantastic run in the FA Cup last year but don’t forget it was away to Ipswich and replays. Then it was Bournemouth. It gets a lot.

‘Now this club wants and needs to be promoted and there’s nothing in the way to stop that.’

n Pompey’s reserve team are in Premier League Cup action against Everton at Southport tonight (7pm).