David Norris has been released from the 4-4-2 shackles – and Championship defences are finding out all about his goal threat.
The current Blues skipper is revelling in the attacking midfield role Michael Appleton has afforded him, following his decision to change Pompey’s formation.
Norris has been used in a withdrawn role behind striker Dave Kitson in the past three games, after Appleton opted for a new system.
That has released the 30-year-old from the straight jacket thrown on him when operating in a two-man central-midfield role.
The result has been two goals in three games as Pompey’s season begins to find impetus, with seven points from nine.
Norris knows he owes a debt of gratitude to Hayden Mullins and George Thorne, who are currently operating behind him in the middle of the park.
He feels he is now operating in a position where he is happiest.
And that means trouble for opposition defences who have to handle his deep-lying danger.
Norris said: ‘I’m really enjoying the position I’m playing in.
‘It’s my favoured role – mainly because of the freedom I get.
‘Obviously, I’ll play anywhere I’m asked to and will happily play in a 4-4-2.
‘But knowing I’ve got two lads behind does give me the freedom to bomb on without having to worry about getting back.
‘I just try to get on and create some problems.
‘I think Kits (Kitson) is different class at holding the ball up.
‘Then it’s up to me and the two wide men to get forward and try to support.’
Saturday’s late, late winner at Burnley made it five goals for the season for Norris, following his summer arrival from Ipswich.
Norris cracked in the decisive strike at Turf Moor in impressive nature from 20 yards.
He is refusing to set any goal targets for the 2011-12 campaign, but is well on course for a repeat of the 11-goal return he grabbed in his final campaign at Portman Road.
Norris said: ‘I didn’t set targets last season and it was a good season.
‘So I’m just going to try to keep going as I am.
‘I like to chip in with goals and I like to chip in with assists as well.
‘But it’s been a case of so far so good up until now.’
Pompey’s win at Burnley showed the team are responding to Appleton’s demands to play the game in the manner he sees fit.
Appleton explained he had focused on ball retention and the manner in which the ball is played through midfield in the build-up to the clash.
That has come on top of the 36-year-old expressing his mantra of taking chances in the right areas of the pitch.
Handling the threat of Burnley – especially as they took a more direct stance after the break – was something Pompey were prepared for.
That led to a textbook away win as they ended their nine-month search for a maximum on the road.
Norris has been impressed with the way the team have responded to their manager’s demands on how they approach the game.
He said: ‘We’ve got players who can pass.
‘George Thorne is an absolute footballer, Hayden can play and the lads at the back can play.
‘We can play as a team, it’s just a case of doing it in the right areas.
‘I think we got it right against Burnley. We played in their half, looked sharp going forward but took no chances at the back.
‘The manager had a big week last week.
‘We put in a lot of hours on the training ground. Tuesday and Thursday were long days, with the manager trying to get across what he wants us to do, especially defensively.
‘Hopefully, now we can carry that forward.’