Pompey boss calls on troops to bounce back

Paul Jones, right, and Johnny Ertl are dejected after Peter Crouch scores Stoke's third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler
Paul Jones, right, and Johnny Ertl are dejected after Peter Crouch scores Stoke's third goal. Picture: Joe Pepler

Andy Awford has challenged Pompey to pick themselves up from their cup exit and embark on another 12-match unbeaten run.

The Blues were knocked out of the Capital One Cup last night at Premier League Stoke City.

The 3-0 scoreline would have been far heavier had it not been for the brilliance of Paul Jones in the Blues goal.

In addition to the keeper’s man-of-the-match showing, Awford’s men gave their all at the Britannia Stadium, refusing to let their heads drop despite the hosts’ dominance.

For Pompey’s manager, it was a first defeat since taking on the job initially as a caretaker on March 27.

Awford had overseen nine wins and three draws in that time, with the Blues heading to Stoke on the back of victory over Oxford United – a fourth consecutive success.

Now he has urged his troops to dust themselves down and start all over again as they seek to maintain a promising start to the campaign.

He said: ‘There were lots of pleasing performances but you are playing against a Premier League side so it was always going to be difficult.

‘Now for me personally and that group we have got to pick ourselves up and start again.

‘That’s the group of players I had last year in the main – obviously we have added a few – and I said to them afterwards I don’t like the feeling of losing.

‘It is important we all remember that feeling for a day or two and then get it out of our system ready to go again against Newport on Saturday.

‘That feeling isn’t nice, I can tell you.

‘We will assess this game and show them some bits and bobs that we have learnt along the way.

‘But the overall feeling for me is the horrible losing feeling and I haven’t had it since the last time I lost an Academy game.

‘I don’t want it to happen again and if we can go another 12 games unbeaten we will be delighted. That’s the challenge we are trying to set.’

It was a tough night for the Blues who were up against a strong side, despite Mark Hughes making nine changes.

The Potters fired off 26 goal attempts, of which 16 were on target, as Jones proved to be difficult to beat. Regardless, Awford was proud of the manner in which his side stood up and continued to battle away.

And he believes they should feel no shame over their Capital One Cup exit.

He added: ‘We lost in the right manner and I don’t think anybody would disagree playing against a quality side.

‘Stoke won’t struggle to stay up this year. I think they will stay up quite comfortably and be knocking on the door for Europe.

‘They have a fantastic squad. I wouldn’t think that was even Mark Hughes’ starting XI last night.

‘They are a fantastic team and I think they will have a very good season.’