Boss believes Blues midfielder is back on form

Liam Lawrence turned in his best display of the season at Leeds
Liam Lawrence turned in his best display of the season at Leeds
Stuart O'Keefe. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey midfielder will relish facing former club

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The real Liam Lawrence has finally stood up.

That is the verdict of Steve Cotterill, who is convinced his skipper has at last rediscovered his form.

It has been a wretched past eight months for the Republic of Ireland midfielder.

Calf, back and hamstring problems have robbed Pompey of the player who was so outstanding upon his August 2010 arrival from Stoke.

Subsequently, he has netted just one goal during 2011 and largely struggled to shine.

But there have been signs Lawrence is getting back his form during his past two appearances against Peterborough and Leeds.

At Elland Road, in particular, the 29-year-old enjoyed comfortably his finest display of the campaign so far.

And Pompey’s boss believes the former Sunderland man is now nearing his best.

Cotterill said: ‘Liam has played well in the last couple of games.

‘I think he has come back into his form now. He is the captain we knew he was going to be.

‘I feel he’s got a lot more energy, his fitness has come back and he’s looking sharper.

‘Liam has also enjoyed it, playing inside.

‘The distances he, David Norris and Joel Ward ran in there against Peterborough, for instance, were unbelievable.

‘It has been difficult for Liam but he’s worked hard and it is starting to come for him now.’

Lawrence won’t be involved in tonight’s FC Rostov friendly.

Instead, he is with the Republic of Ireland squad ahead of Euro 2012 qualifiers in Andorra on Friday and at home to Armenia next week.

One player who will feature in the Fratton Park charity match, however, is Luke Varney.

He has now served a three-match ban following his Hull sending off.

As a result, Cotterill will put him straight into the side to face the Russian Premier League outfit.

The summer signing has impressed in a wide-left role since his arrival, although his versatility also allows him to play as a central striker.

And Cotterill believes his team have missed the presence of the former Derby forward.

He added: ‘We could have done with Luke’s energy.

‘If we’d had him and Huseklepp on the flanks against Leeds we would have been a threat.

‘That has been a big blow for us.

‘We have lost Varney’s energy to a sending off that’s not a sending off. That is the trouble.

‘We’ve ended up losing a player like that over the last three games, which is really disappointing.

‘Imagine if we had him available for us during that period.’