Comeback-kid Karim Rekik has earned praise from Michael Appleton after bouncing back to star in Pompey’s survival push.
The 17-year-old endured a painful afternoon at the hands of Doncaster Rovers’ James Coppinger last weekend during which he was mercilessly tormented.
It represented a harsh lesson for the left-back who was spared more misery by being substituted in the 76th minute for Marko Futacs at the Keepmoat Stadium.
Despite those disappointments, Rekik responded with a man-of-the-match display against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night.
He firmly applied the shackles to highly-regarded dangerman Wilfried Zaha as the Blues ran out 2-1 winners.
That result keeps Pompey in the hunt to avoid relegation, with two matches of the season remaining.
And Appleton is looking to the Dutch under-17 international to maintain such impressive form during the crucial run in.
He said: ‘Karim did well playing against a top young player who a lot of people are interested in at the minute.
‘He was below par on Saturday so I was pleased with him on Tuesday.
‘We got a response from him and he defended one-versus-one really well.
‘There are not that many people that can do that against Zaha. He has made a lot of defenders look silly over the last 12-18 months and looked up for it against us.
‘So that is even more positive for Karim, who never let him in the game.
‘The lad is a natural centre-half and I think he and Jason Pearce get in the way of each other at times. But that is where we are at the minute having to take opportunities with young players.
‘Against Palace it was one where you saw him more defending than attacking, so certainly we saw more of him and what attributes he has got defensively.
‘Although, I think in other games, we have seen more of him attacking-wise.’
That Keepmoat Stadium display was comfortably the most disappointing for Rekik during his current six-match run.
Nonetheless, Appleton has sympathy for the Manchester City youngster who continues to impress at Fratton Park.
He added: ‘The situation of the (Doncaster) game and to concede two goals in five minutes had a big part to play in Karim’s performance.
‘He has just turned 17 and what Doncaster did really well was they kept putting the ball in behind him early doors, and it was difficult to get out at times.
‘Karim has been great, though. He’s a good kid who enjoys coming in training. He’s got a big future, but City know that.’