And it prompted a concerned Blues boss to leave the Wales international out of Pompey’s starting XI for Saturday’s 2-1 defeat.
On Friday, Morrell attended the funeral of his aunt in Wales ahead of the U’s Fratton Park visit.
Despite the midfielder returning to Pompey that evening and declaring himself available, Cowley took the decision to name the 24-year-old on the bench.
That represented one of five changes to the side which lost at MK Dons the previous weekend.
Now Morrell is poised to return to Pompey’s team to face Plymouth in tomorrow night’s encounter (7.45pm).
Cowley told The News: ‘Joe had a family bereavement, which rightly meant he had to go to the funeral in Wales.
‘There was a lot of travelling, which was the right thing to do. Football is the second most important thing in the world, just behind family.
‘It was a close family member and takes its toll emotionally, so we are just trying to take the right decision with the player.
‘None of know whether, had Joe played, we would have won, but he’s a real loss to us. He’s a top, top player.
‘He came back Friday night and wanted to play (against Cambridge) and these are the hardest decisions to make.
‘You never quite know how much it affects someone physically and emotionally, so we decided to put him on the bench.’
Morrell was an unused substitute against Cambridge, with John Marquis, George Hirst and Louis Thompson called upon.
Cowley now believes the former Bristol City man is ready to be considered against fourth-placed Plymouth.
Following four appearances so far, Morrell’s Pompey displays haven’t quite clicked.
Yet Cowley has no concerns that the lively midfielder will soon prove his worth in a Blues shirt.
Pompey’s head coach added: ‘Joe came in off the back of a pre-season, so started late. He then picked up Covid, which has taken a lot out of all the boys who have had it.
‘He played in the Doncaster game when I think was physically still finding his way, then he played in the MK Dons match.
‘To be fair to him, ahead of MK Dons, he had been with Wales, with a lot of travelling in between.
‘He’s going to be great for us. There is competition for places, which is what you want and what you play for.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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