PAUL COOK reflected on a painful promotion tussle loss and admitted: We’re hurting.
But the Pompey boss vowed there will be more twists and turns in his side’s bid to reach League One after frustrating defeat to Oxford United.
Cook’s side fell to a 1-0 loss to the U’s in the much-anticipated battle of the high-fliers on Saturday.
A near sell-out crowd saw former Pompey boss Michael Appleton’s side snare all three points at Fratton Park.
The result flattened Blues fans with hopes the game could propel their side back towards the automatic promotion berths.
They were dashed, however, and Cook told how that was a dagger blow for his players to take.
Cook said: ‘We’ve had good days lately but it was a disappointment. A huge disappointment,
‘We’re a big club but my job is to manage that disappointment.
‘It hurts and it should hurt for the players.
‘We have to lick our wounds and come back stronger.
‘We’ve been on a great run – a smashing run.
‘It’s a long time since we lost at home, so it’s disappointing.
‘We never got going or looked as fluent as we should.
‘They were better than us at the start and we couldn’t get near them.
‘Great credit to Oxford. They are a good team, probably the best to come to Fratton Park this season.
‘It wasn’t our day but it’s important we stay together.
‘We lick our wounds now but then we train harder and work harder and get better at what we do.’
The result leaves Pompey seven points behind Oxford, who occupy the third automatic promotion berth behind Plymouth Argyle and Northampton Town.
Cook’s men have a game in hand over the U’s, however, with 20 league fixtures to go this season.
The Blues were on a run of just a single defeat in 13 games heading into the clash.
Substitute Jordan Bowery’s goal was the difference, though, and ended a sequence of Pompey not conceding a league goal at home for seven games.
The gap to the top three has got supporters considering the prospect of a play-off battle at the end of the campaign.
Cook dismissed that, however, and believes his side can still gatecrash the automatic promotion party.
He said: ‘There’s 20 games to go. We’ve got big games ahead.
‘You win a few games on the bounce and the picture soon changes.
‘A lot of the top sides still have to come here.
‘We weren’t great and that was the disappointing thing.
‘We looked forward to the game because we felt we would be better than Oxford but it was very debatable whether that was the case.
‘There’s a long way to go. You don’t realise what can happen in football with these games to come.’