Paul Cook bids to remove his ‘negative’ Pompey tag

Michael Smith came off the bench against Stevenage on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler
Michael Smith came off the bench against Stevenage on Saturday Picture: Joe Pepler
Stuart O'Keefe in action against Bury. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Paul Cook has lauded his bench options – as he bids to remove an unwanted tag.

The Pompey boss believes he has unfairly earned a reputation among the Fratton faithful for being ‘negative’ with his substitutions.

It is a perception which clearly grates on the manager who has steered the Blues into fifth spot in League Two.

Victory at Accrington Stanley tonight (7.45pm) would lift his team into fourth position – putting them within six points of an automatic promotion spot.

Pompey head to the Crown Ground on the back of a 2-0 triumph at Stevenage.

It was an encounter which saw Gary Roberts and Michael Smith return to his match-day 18 following injury.

Crucially, it also enabled Cook to utilise the attacking instincts of Smith and the dropped Kal Naismith from the bench.

Both had an impact after entering the action on 71 minutes, with Naismith netting his maiden goal for the club within 11 minutes.

Kieron Freeman also entered the action late on for only his second Blues appearance since joining on loan from Sheffield United.

For Cook, it was the perfect example of how positive substitutions can boost a side.

And he believes it demonstrates that some of the Fratton faithful have misjudged him.

He said: ‘If you look at Saturday’s game, the substitutions had a really good effect on the game, that is what subs are supposed to do.

‘Every one of them was a positive substitution, we haven’t had that on the bench in the last few games.

‘Our way is to score. We don’t want to hang on and defend – we want to score more goals.

‘It’s about being positive in what we do, not negative.

‘My managerial career has always been littered in trying to win games and trying to score goals.

‘Unfortunately here it has come a bit of a tag that I am negative. I don’t like that tag, I genuinely don’t.

‘It is hard to be positive when you play against teams when every man is in their own half!’

Pompey had previously suffered the heartbreak of Exeter netting a last-gasp leveller.

On that occasion, Cook’s bench consisted of outfield players Matt Clarke, Gareth Evans, Ben Tollitt, Adam Barton, Freeman and Brandon Haunstrup.

With Smith, Roberts and Adam McGurk injured, the lack of a striker meant the Blues’ boss had no natural replacement for Conor Chaplin and Marc McNulty at St James Park.

However, only Brian Murphy (calf) is injured for tonight’s trip to Accrington.