Perry Northeast insists the shock departures of two Pompey Ladies stalwarts was prompted by the necessity to look ‘long-term’.
Sadie Blakely and Charley Wilson were informed before training on Tuesday they were to be released.
The duo, who married in August, were key members of the Blues side which last season were crowned Premier League southern division champions.
Wilson, who has totalled 21 years with the club, was in her second season as captain.
Regardless, Northeast opted to let the pair go – with Pompey subsequently winning 1-0 at QPR on Wednesday night.
Wilson, 30, from Buckland, has declined to comment to The News at present.
However, boss Northeast is adamant the decision was taken to help the club move forwards.
He said: ‘This is the toughest decision I have made at this football club and has been taken with me trying to envisage the future of the club.
‘It was very tough to come to, it was not celebrated and is about moving forward as a club.
‘I have got to be brutally honest, this season we have not become worse as a club or a team but other clubs have now caught up with us.
‘Teams like Brighton and Charlton have beaten us in recent matches having now stepped up to our level.
‘Last year we set the bar and currently we are seeing others meeting that same bar.
‘We are still competing on all levels, we are not out of our depth, while we haven’t fallen back – it’s just that other teams have improved.
‘Teams have caught us up, so now I have got to put us back on top.’
In the duo’s absence, Northeast named 16-year-old Katie George in his squad for the trip to QPR.
It was the first time the promising striker has made the squad this season and she caught the eye as a second-half substitute.
George was on standby for the England under-17s in the summer and Pompey have high hopes over her development.
Michelle Beazley stepped up to replace Blakely in goal, keeping a clean sheet in the process as Lucy Quinn netted the winner.
Beazley will now fight it out with teenager Courtney Trodd to be the regular number one.
Meanwhile, George joins striking ranks which also contain Gemma Hillier, Ini Umotong and Jemma Tewkesbury.
Northeast added: ‘Katie is one of the younger players we want to give a chance to and we called her into the squad against QPR.
‘She came in at fairly short notice and during her 30 minutes on the pitch coped comfortably with the level.
‘At one point she delivered a magnificent chest and volley which forced their keeper into an excellent save.
‘Katie arrived here in the summer and was considered by England for their under-17 European Championship side.’
Pompey have yet to decide on a permanent skipper to replace Wilson, although Hillier remains club captain.