Pompey boss backs skipper to bounce back stronger

Brian Howard in action against Notts County. Picture: Barry Zee
Brian Howard in action against Notts County. Picture: Barry Zee
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Pompey boss encouraged by ‘good options’

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Brian Howard has been backed to learn from his ‘crazy’ moment which set Pompey on the road to FA Cup elimination.

The dismal Blues were dumped out of the first round by Notts County on Saturday.

The breakthrough came in first-half stoppage-time when Howard senselessly attempted to pass the ball out of a crowded penalty area.

He merely gifted possession to the Magpies and Alan Judge crossed for Francois Zoko to net with a far-post header.

Yoann Arquin added a second in the 56th minute – heading home Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s right-wing centre.

But it was Pompey’s skipper who had made the first crucial mistake – a fact which saw him apologise to the team at half-time.

And boss Michael Appleton believes the midfielder will learn from that error.

He said: ‘It was crazy from Brian and he put his hand up straight away – as soon as he walked into the dressing room at half-time.

‘I would expect that from him anyway.

‘I would rather he learn from that and make sure it doesn’t happen again – and I really, really hope this does become true.

‘Initially he did very well to get himself back in that position, so hopefully he will clear his lines and make the right decision if he is there again tomorrow.

‘I have never asked any player in my life to try to play out of a box with his back to goal.

‘I would never encourage that any day but he knows that anyway.

‘It wasn’t just him and that is what I said at half-time.

‘It actually happened four or five times before we got punished for it.

‘Both goals were exactly the same – they had one player between both posts front stick and back stick and they had two free headers.

‘Gabor and Lubo have had a lot of credit probably over the past six weeks.

‘But that’s when you have got to take responsibility and not give free headers and make sure one of you gets close to him next time.’

Appleton was robbed of injured duo Ashley Harris and Lee Williamson for Saturday’s match.

The pair both picked up knocks in training on Thursday, ruling them out of action for the FA Cup first-round fixture.

Harris will also miss tomorrow’s visit of Brentford, although the Blues boss is hopeful Williamson may feature.

However, their losses have been partially off-set by the return of Darel Russell to the squad at the weekend after five weeks out with a hamstring injury.

Appleton added: ‘Lee picked up a groin injury on Thursday but we didn’t think it would be too bad.

‘I think he is going to be 50/50 for tomorrow, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

‘Ashley is probably going to be seven to 10 days. He rolled his ankle on Thursday.

‘It’s a disappointment because he was training ever so well at the time but these things happen, you get on with it.

‘Darel was back in the squad but has only had two training sessions after five weeks out.

‘It’s too soon for him to get involved but gives us a couple of options over the next couple of weeks.’