Gareth Evans branded early-season flak for Michael Smith ‘pathetic’ ahead of Crawley.
Smith is fighting for a starting spot tomorrow as Pompey go in search of their third league win on the bounce.
The striker’s hat-trick at Yeovil on Tuesday has given Cook food for thought when it comes to his starting line-up.
It was an emphatic response to the stick received by the 24-year-old after a stuttering start to the season.
Smith was taken out of the firing line after three games without a goal.
He’s now pushing for inclusion against Dermot Drummy’s side, however, after his impressive treble.
And Evans has launched an impassioned defence of the Geordie hitman in the face of the criticism he’s received.
Evans said: ‘I think a lot of players have to go through the stage he’s going through.
‘It makes him stronger and thicker skinned.
‘You can’t take people’s opinions into consideration, really.
‘You have to focus on your own game and come out of it the other end.
‘When I was at Bradford I had it. I used to get quite a bit of stick.
‘It’s just one of those things, really. It made me a better player and I’m sure it’ll make Smudge a better player.
‘Everyone knows what a great talent he is and he showed that on Tuesday – as well as what a great finisher he is.
‘We all want him back in the first team and scoring goals again.
‘He looks sharp in training every day. It’s a case of going in every day and fully applying himself and he’ll come out the other end of the spell.
‘We’re only five games into the season. It’s pathetic really even talking about it.
‘We’re all a team and we’re all pulling in the same direction. We want to get promoted.
‘If we are going to get promoted we are going to need Michael Smith to score 20 goals for us.
‘We all need to get behind him and support him.’
Evans ramped up his return to full fitness with 90 minutes in the Checkatrade Trophy – his first at senior level since injuring his ankle and knee against Plymouth Argyle in the play-offs.
Now, the 28-year-old is out to help his side to their third consecutive league maximum – a landmark it took them until April to reach last season.
Evans said: ‘Hopefully, I get the opportunity to get on the pitch.
‘It’s an opportunity for the lads to get three wins on the bounce in the league.
‘That’s something we struggled to do last season, so hopefully we take that chance and make it four, five or six wins on the bounce.
‘I’d like to think I’d be involved. If I am then I’d help us win.
‘If we can get that third win it breeds confidence and we’d fancy ourselves the week after being at home. That’s the way it works.
‘When we played Northampton last season at their place we were the last team to beat them.
‘They went on a 24-game unbeaten run in the league.
‘It’s just breeding confidence and hopefully that will be the case.’