Appleton lays down Rodgers goal challenge

Luke Rodgers is mobbed by his team-mates after opening his Pompey scoring account
Luke Rodgers is mobbed by his team-mates after opening his Pompey scoring account
Pompey striker Conor Chaplin Picture: Joe Pepler

Congratulations – Chaplin on the brink of Pompey milestone

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Michael Appleton has challenged Luke Rodgers to grab 20 goals for Pompey this season.

And the Blues boss believes he is the man who can help the much-travelled striker achieve such lofty targets.

Rodgers opened his goal account for the club with a well-taken finish against Colchester on Tuesday night.

The 30-year-old also had a hand in the second, with his strike smacking against the post before being put into the net by Jordan Obita to seal a 2-2 draw.

It has been a fitful time for the ex-Blues triallist, who has endured several niggling injuries since arriving a month ago.

Nonetheless, he has impressed on occasions – not least at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Rodgers has scored 109 league goals in a career which has seen prolific spells at Shrewsbury, Port Vale and Notts County.

In recent years he has played with Thierry Henry at New York Red Bulls before enjoying a spell at Lillestrom.

Now he’s back in English football and Appleton is looking to eke out plenty more goals during his Pompey time.

He said: ‘Luke has done all right. I’m happy.

‘He has got his goal but I want him to score 20 goals, so I am not going to give him too much praise until he gets the type of record he has had at previous clubs.

‘Luke has got an eye for goal.

‘His goal-scoring record at this level is good and that is why we gave him an opportunity.

‘I just want to improve his link-up play and make him a more intelligent striker rather than someone who thrives on mistakes because of his work-rate.

‘I want to improve his intelligence. I want him to be able to play the number 10 role at times.

‘He is always looking to play on the shoulder and be the main striker but I want to improve him and make him a better player.

‘That is all I can do and that is what I promise the players when they come here.

‘It’s one of them where he fits into a philosophy that we want.

‘I think you have seen the type of way we want to play and if he doesn’t do it he won’t play, it’s as simple as that.

‘It’s not a matter of can he improve or does he want to improve – he knows if he doesn’t, he won’t be playing.’

That Colchester strike marked Rodgers’ first goal in English football since May 2010.

On that occasion he netted for Notts County in a 5-0 win over Cheltenham. It was his 13th goal of the season.

In January 2011, the diminutive front man moved to New York Red Bulls to end his time in English football.

And Pompey are currently giving him a way back.

Appleton added: ‘Obviously, Luke has been frustrated after picking up a couple of niggly injuries.

‘A lot of his game is fitness and eagerness and willingness to work hard and close defenders down.

‘Going over to the MLS, he did ever so well with New York.

‘I think it has taken him a little bit of time to get around to the fact he has had that opportunity taken away from him but he seems to be at it again now.

‘He looks hungry, he scored one the other night – and I want him to carry that on.’