'It’s not rocket science': Portsmouth boss on how players reconnected with the Fratton faithful during remarkable Fleetwood comeback

Danny Cowley surveyed a remarkable Fratton Park comeback and insisted: We lacked that character two months ago.

Monday, 28th February 2022, 4:55 am

A wretched opening 44 minutes saw the Blues embarrassingly slump 3-0 down to struggling Fleetwood.

However, Cowley’s shell-shocked men managed to scramble back onto their feet and claim a dramatic 3-3 draw, with substitute Aiden O’Brien levelling five minutes into time added-on.

It has been more than six-and-a-half years since Pompey last clawed their way back from 3-0 behind to claim a draw.

That was against Morecambe at Fratton Park in August 2015, when Paul Cook’s men equalised through Jayden Stockley’s last-gasp header after Gary Roberts had netted twice.

And although fuming at taking merely a point against Fleetwood, Cowley was keen to credit his team for their gutsy fightback.

He told The News: ‘The Pompey fans just want you to have a go.

‘I say to the players all the time, it’s not rocket science, fight, give it everything you’ve got, energy, intensity and aggression, fight for every ball, play with heart and play with a passion, and they will be fine with you.

Danny Cowley's side demonstrated tremendous character to fight back from 3-0 down to claim a dramatic point against Fleetwood. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

‘They forgive everything else, just show those qualities – and we did in that second half.

‘Let me tell you, we wouldn’t have been able to do that two months ago, but it takes time to develop and grow relationships.

‘Honestly, I am really frustrated and really disappointed not to win, we were so soft in the first half, but for the second half let’s give credit to the players. I liked what I saw in the second half.

‘The players were under the most intense pressure at 3-0 down, they showed some kahunas.

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‘You’ve just got to start like that, play like that from the beginning. Why should it take you to get punched in the face three times to bring that level of intensity?

‘I have got to find a way of starting like that. Welcome to Fratton Park, this full house, blue sky.

‘You can criticise my teams over the last 15 years for lots of things, but never for the lack of fight or going to the end or giving it everything you've got.’

Man-of-the-match Ronan Curtis initiated the fightback by converting a 45th-minute penalty following Callum Camps’ handball.

His corner was then nudged home at close range by Marcus Harness in the 80th minute to make it 3-2.

Then, during eight minutes of stoppage time, Curtis’ ball down the middle was helped on by George Hirst and O’Brien calmly slotted past the advancing Fleetwood keeper for the equaliser.

Cowley added: ‘Nobody in that dressing room afterwards was happy for a point, not at home, we wanted to win.

‘I don’t know why they celebrated the equaliser. Get the ball to the centre spot, kick off, put pressure on pressure, get the ball back and go again.

‘I felt there was a fourth goal for us.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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