Cotterill not getting carried away by instant impact

Jason Pearce
Jason Pearce
Pompey's Gareth Evans. Picture: Joe Pepler

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They’re the double act whose success has been instant.

Not that Steve Cotterill is getting swept away with any euphoria.

Greg Halford and Jason Pearce’s burgeoning central defensive partnership has been one of the highlights of the season so far.

Pearce displaced Aaron Mokoena to line-up alongside Halford against Reading three weeks ago.

The bruising 23-year-old promptly walked away with the man-of-the-match accolade.

It’s an impressive alliance which has seen just one goal conceded in those subsequent three matches.

Early days, unquestionably.

Yet the rapport between the pair has been instantaneous – and outstanding.

Halford struck up a club record-breaking partnership with Ricardo Rocha last term.

Now he has a new defensive sidekick.

For Cotterill, though, it is too premature to declare he has struck gold.

He said: ‘Greg and Jason are the partnership at the moment.

‘That is not to say that will be the case all the time.

‘But competition is such that these days people have to cope with the pressure of playing for their places.

‘They’ve done well – but I still think they can get better.

‘There is room for improvement and there always will be.

‘They have only played three games together, so let’s not get carried away here.

‘You can’t go thinking “that is it, we are over all of our problems”, so to speak.

‘They are working hard at the partnership and it is developing.

‘The pair of them are good lads.

‘They are also young, which I am really pleased about.

‘They are different, which makes them a bit more of a partnership.

‘They literally are a number five and a number six.

‘They complement each other and that’s what I really like about them.

‘It’s still early days, though, hopefully it will continue to be right.’

The emergence of Pearce has taken many of the Fratton faithful by surprise.

He was widely perceived as a squad player when he arrived from Bournemouth for just £300,000.

A red card carried over from his Dean Court days subsequently saw him sit out the opening three matches.

Certainly few expected him to dislodge the Halford/Rocha partnership which performed so well last term.

They were at the heart of a Pompey post-war league record of 636 minutes without conceding.

Rocha lost his place to Mokoena for the final four matches as he served a four-match ban.

As expected, the Portuguese defender was reunited with Halford for the start of this season.

Yet uncertain displays against Middlesbrough and Barnet saw him dropped, initially in favour of Mokoena.

One match later Pearce returned from suspension and took over the mantle.

Now, after just three outings, the bargain buy with the all-action attitude has emerged as a real fans’ favourite.

And Cotterill continues to be delighted with his performances.

He added: ‘When I signed Jason I said he would be a coup for this club.

‘Let’s hope I can continue to be right.

‘Jason is one of those who deserves everything he gets in football.

‘When he works hard, he works harder and then harder again. That’s what he is all about.

‘His character is absolutely first class.

‘You look at him and he is a 23-year-old – but he is a man

‘He does not give an inch and has this real infectious battling spirit.’