Michael Doyle believes Pompey are standing up the physical test League Two offers
The Blues captain feels his side have responded to doubts about their ability to handle the rough stuff this season.
Paul Cook’s men have only lost two games in their past 12 matches as they look to force their way into the top three.
Doyle has acknowledged how he feels his bust-up with Christian Burgess was costly in the 2-1 loss to Stevenage, with the other loss at leaders Doncaster.
The 35-year-old is pleased, however, his team are looking a more rugged outfit than they were 12 months ago.
Doyle said: ‘It was a heavy Christmas period and we’ve had two defeats in 12.
‘The Doncaster one was really disappointing because we were going to top of the league and wanted to make a statement.
‘I believe we wouldn’t have lost to Stevenage if the incident didn’t take place.
‘Aside from those two blemishes though, we’ve looked a good solid team.
‘Last year people were questioning that about us.
‘But we’ve looked physically strong this season.
‘There’s people like Naismith who are looking physically strong and have waited for their chance. We’re standing up to the challenge.’
Despite showing physical progress, Doyle feels his team still show defensive naivety at times – with the Doncaster loss a clear example.
Doyle said: ‘At Doncaster I was disappointed. I thought we were a bit off the pace.
‘We were in control of the game, but didn’t quite have that spark about us.
‘Watching the game back it was every man behind the ball – and they are top.
‘They did us a bit. They did us on the counter a couple of times and it was a bit naive from us.
‘It’s 1-1 at half-time at the team who’s top of the league.
‘We should have come out with our heads screwed on a bit more, but we’ve tried to take the game to them and we got punished. We were slack.’
– JORDAN CROSS