Boss Ronnie Moore has implored his Hartlepool United players to be “brave” for tomorrow night’s crunch FA Cup tie.
Pools have reached a crossroads of their season ahead of the visit of Salford City in the second-round replay at Victoria Park.
A victory over the non-league outfit (setting up an attractive home tie against Derby) could prove a turning point, but Moore’s side must start finding the net.
Since putting three past Leyton Orient, there have been just two goals in the last four matches – one an own goal and the other a penalty.
Moore said his players must show hunger and guts after seeing his side fail to find the Portsmouth net in Saturday’s four-goal League Two defeat, despite having several good openings and set-pieces.
“At the moment, I don’t think there are enough people who want to score,” he said. “Some of the corners and free-kicks were crying out to be put in. But no-one has got on the end of them.
“Jake’s (Gray) had one bad one and we’ll let him off with that, but he’s whipped in some good ones.
“The players have to be hungry, they have to have the desire, you can’t teach them that, it’s in your DNA!
“You can’t teach them that.
“You have to be brave, you might get a boot, a punch, you might get your nose broken, it’s all for the cause. Do they want to score or stay pretty?”
While Portsmouth romped home 4-0 there were no lack of opening for Pools – Rakish Bingham, Rhys Oates, Scott Fenwick, Matthew Bates and Nicky Featherstone all having chances.
“If you analyse the goals, we’ve pressed the self-destruct button,” said Moore.
“The first, we’ve allowed the lad to turn and yes, it’s a good strike, but we could have cut that out.
“The own goal, it’s a misunderstanding, he’s gone and got a toe on it, he doesn’t know who’s behind him.
“We’ve changed the shape at half-time to 4-4-2 to have a go and try to get a goal back – we were still in it at 2-0.
“If we’d have scored and made it 2-1, it’s game on.
“It’s crucial that you make the right decisions in the right areas – our keeper makes a wonder say and it’s vital you clear it when you have the chance.
“Unfortunately, we had an extra touch and its’s allowed the lad to nick it and Evans has finished. You don’t have time to mess about, it needed a boot putting through it and it’s ended up in our net.
“Then it’s game over and they get one at the end.”
Tomorrow’s cup visitors, Salford, had the Saturday off after their Northern Premier League match against Whitby Town was postponed. Admission tomorrow is £10 (adults) and £5 (concessions).
Portsmouth: Murphy, Stevens, Webster, Burgess (Clarke 85), Davies, Hollands, Doyle, Evans, Lavery (McGurk 80), Bennett (Tollitt 75), McNulty. Subs not used: Chaplin, Close, Bass, Haunstrup. Goals: Lavery 32, Jackson og 37, Evans 61, McNulty 90.
Hartlepool: Carson, Carroll, Bates, Jackson, Duckworth, Gray, Featherstone, Magnay (Walker 75), Oates, Bingham, Fenwick (Mandron 75). Subs not used: Harrison, Bartlett, Woods, Richards, Smith. Booked: Bingham, Mandron.
Att: 15,610. Ref: Christopher Sarginson (Staffs).