Utaka grateful for start
John Utaka has thanked boss Tony Adams for having the faith to give him his first start of the season.
By Richard Bailey
Last Updated: 30/10/08 2:40pm
Portsmouth midfielder John Utaka has thanked new boss Tony Adams for having the faith to give him his first start of the season at Anfield on Wednesday.
Adams reverted to a 4-5-1 formation for the trip to league leaders Liverpool bringing Utaka in on the right hand side, which left leading scorer Jermain Defoe on the bench.
The change in tactics nearly worked as Pompey held firm for 76 minutes, then a rush of blood to the head from Papa Bouba Diop handed Steven Gerrard the chance to win the match from the spot after he handled in the area.
He told The News: "We did well and we worked hard, so we think we deserved better. It's about enjoying yourselves and working hard for the team.
"I'm enjoying what I'm doing. We troubled them a couple of times on the counter attack. I just believe we deserved better because we really worked hard.
"The manager gave me some encouraging words before the game. He told me to enjoy it and to work hard defensively. I did enjoy it and I felt more confident."
Utaka had a golden chance to grab an equaliser late on but squandered the chance.
He said: "I was a bit taken when I got the chance. It happened quickly. I was trying to get over it but I was a little bit surprised."
Adams had positive things to say about the Nigerian winger: "John did well. Last year he did it for us in that system - occasionally. I think he did a lot better in that role for me last night. He had a good game."
The winger admitted that the news of Harry Redknapp's departure had shocked him but said that the players cannot use it as an excuse for their form to drop.
He added: "At the end of the day it's all about us. It's about the club and the players. It was a shock what happened. No one expected it but what can we do?"