'A number came up very short': Danny Cowley's serious concerns over the quality of his Portsmouth fringe players
Danny Cowley rounded on his fringe players after failing to grasp the first-team lifeline thrown in their direction.
The Blues’ head coach rotated his squad for last night’s visit of Sutton United in the Papa John’s Trophy.
He fielded nine of the reserve side which performed so impressively to defeat Bournemouth 3-0 in a behind-closed-doors friendly last week.
Of the starting XI against Sutton, only Sean Raggett and Lee Brown didn’t feature in that Cherries training ground fixture.
However, Pompey’s shadow squad produced a wretched display last night, unable to capitalise on a rare first-team chance for the vast majority of them.
Instead their League Two opponents ran out 2-0 winners – and Cowley was mulling over concerns about his back-up players.
He told The News: ‘I’m frustrated and disappointed in equal measure.
‘Obviously we lost three players to injuries, culminating in us playing the majority of the second half with 10 men, but it was frustrating considering the way we played last Wednesday.
‘Before the AFC Wimbledon game (in the Papa John’s Trophy), some of those fringe players were maybe a little under cooked. So this time around in the build up, we played Bournemouth in a behind-closed-doors game.
‘It was against a full first-team and we did great, winning 3-0 with so many positives to come from it.
‘You enter this game really looking forward to the boys being able to build on that performance – and they just weren’t able to.
‘You are a professional footballer, you have to perform consistently. They played really well last Wednesday, yet there were a number that came up very short last night.
‘It’s frustrating for everybody associated with the club because you want your players to perform.
‘We weren’t able to get any rhythm in the game and, credit to the opponent, they pressed us with real aggression. We weren’t able to beat their press.
‘The front end we couldn’t keep it up the pitch, we didn’t do well enough there, and that’s the truth.
‘You want competition for places – and not enough of them put their hand up tonight.’
Pompey still have the opportunity to continue in the Papa John’s Trophy, despite having lost twice.
They must still face Crystal Palace under-21s at the group stage, a fixture scheduled for Fratton Park on November 16.
In the meantime, the Blues head to Rotherham on Saturday, seeking to build on their placing of 12th.
Cowley added: ‘Last Wednesday we left there thinking “Wow”. We’d just beaten Sunderland, then beat Bournemouth 3-0, with both forwards scoring and lots to be positive about.
‘Last night we picked up three injuries, which is the last thing we need with a small squad anyway.
‘And quite a few fringe players haven’t played as well as they could.’
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