GARY ROBERTS can be Pompey’s ‘fulcrum’ over the season’s finale.
Paul Cook admitted he took a risk on the Blues talisman’s fitness in the weekend victory at Stevenage Borough.
NowCook is preparing to turn to Roberts to make his side tick as they go to Accrington Stanley tonight.
Roberts’ quality was key on Saturday as he played a crucial role in the opening goal.
Cook knows he is going to prove critical to what pans out over the final 12 games.
He said: ‘Gary Roberts coming back is such an important factor in the way we play the game.
‘He’s the fulcrum of everything we do.
‘On Saturday, the team was picked more like the one who started the season and has played good football.
‘We took a bit of a risk putting Gary in, but sometimes it’s worth the risk.
‘If we’d lost I’d have got criticism but I have great faith in the squad.
‘We need to keep marching forward and lay a marker down to how many points we can get. Whatever we get is what we deserve.’
Cook has some interesting team selections to make for tonight’s clash at the Crown Ground.
Kal Naismith left the bench to score at Stevenage, with Michael Smith and Conor Chaplin also among the subs.
Cook said: ‘There were some huge decisions.
‘On Saturday, Conor would have played three games in a week and is physically shattered. Kal Naismith hasn’t played games for a period of time.
‘It was a big decision to leave Kal out because he’s been our best player over the past two games.
‘These lads haven’t played three games in a week and it was a doubt Roberts would last more than 60 minutes.
‘I felt we’d get to 60 minutes with whatever team we picked and then we’d have a bench with options.
‘I thought Michael Smith was excellent when he came on and Kieron Freeman was good.’
The importance of tonight’s game is obvious, with Pompey able to overhaul Accrington with the win and close the gap on the top three to six points.
Cook added: ‘There’s so many points to play for still.
‘Northampton are sailing away and Oxford and Plymouth have laid down markers, they’ll be hard to catch.
‘Then there’s Accrington, ourselves, Bristol Rovers, Wimbledon or whoever it may be. But we have to keep believing we can catch them.’
– JORDAN CROSS