Paul Cook desperate to end late Pompey pain

Paul Cook cursed his side's recurring late defensive fragility after they surrendered victory at Exeter City.

Wednesday, 2nd March 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 6:30 pm
Pompey players can't hide their frustration as Ollie Watkins celebrates his late leveller. Picture: Joe Pepler

The Blues appeared to be heading for a timely win at St James Park last night – an evening which saw promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle and Accrington both lose.

Conor Chaplin’s 31st-minute goal had seemingly put them on the path to a 1-0 triumph in wet and windy Devon.

Yet Ollie Watkins’ 90th-minute solo run grabbed a draw for the hosts to break Pompey hearts.

It was the fourth goal conceded on 90 minutes or later during the past seven Blues matches.

That includes games against Morecambe, Bristol Rovers and Cambridge United.

In addition, this season has also seen Carlisle and Stevenage equalise in stoppage-time, while Plymouth registered in the 89th minute.

And Cook is desperate to put an end to their costly conceding.

He said: ‘There is no simple answer. It is not a case of changing personnel, it is not tiredness or anything like that.

‘At the end of last night’s game we had lads like Michael Doyle, Ben Davies and Gareth Evans in there. These lads have seen games out for fun.

‘Adam Barton has played games for Republic of Ireland under-21s, these lads are good players, they know how to see a game out. Unfortunately we just never.

‘I was disappointed to drop two more points. It was like Morecambe and if we had those four points on the board now how different the league would look.

‘But we haven’t so we just have got to get on with Saturday’s game with Stevenage.

‘It affects everyone’s confidence but the reality is we have to build our team to go and score more goals, that is what we must do.

‘We can’t be on our back foot, we can’t be inviting pressure and saying we will see the game out. It’s not what we want.

‘But unfortunately it is happening to us like that now and what we have got to do is eventually rebuild our team to go away from home and make them defend late on.

‘We should be in the ascendancy and not on our back foot.

‘We get too deep. We could make plenty of excuses but we won’t. We have dropped two points and are hugely disappointed.’

The equaliser was no more than Exeter deserved from their second-half display.

Paul Tisdale’s side applied plenty of late pressure and in the end it told when Watkins cut in from the left and wriggled through a number of tackles to squeeze home the leveller.

Cook said: ‘Their goal wasn’t a set-piece, it was open play and we haven’t really conceded goals from open play so you have to take it on board.

‘It was a little bit of a horrible goal, a little bit of a scuff, while you’re worried about giving a penalty away.

‘That’s footy, we have to take it on on the chin and keep working forward.’