Henderson’s not resting on his laurels

Southampton's Rickie Lambert (centre) challenges Portsmouth's goalkeeper Stephen Henderson during the npower Football League Championship match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth.
Southampton's Rickie Lambert (centre) challenges Portsmouth's goalkeeper Stephen Henderson during the npower Football League Championship match at Fratton Park, Portsmouth.
Paul Cook celebrates winning the League Two title with Pompey. Picture: Joe Pepler

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He’s been one of Pompey’s most consistent performers.

But 13 games on the bounce is not enough for Stephen Henderson to believe he is the Blues’ established first-choice keeper.

The Irishman arrived at Fratton Park as back-up to Jamie Ashdown in the summer.

Ashdown himself was the epitome of consistency in an ever-present campaign for his club last season. Steve Cotterill saw fit to change the guard nine games in this time around, however, as the Blues’ former boss opted for the man he recruited from Bristol City.

Michael Appleton has seen no reason to change the order in his time in charge, with Henderson delivering some assured displays.

Despite his new manager continuing the newly-established order, though, the 23-year-old doesn’t see himself as having a clear upper hand in the battle for the No1 spot.

Henderson is well aware that a keeper of Ashdown’s calibre and experience is not going to make life easy for him.

He said: ‘I don’t see myself as established.

‘That was my 13th game against Millwall.

‘So I really do have to take each game as it comes.

‘I know Jamie is breathing down my neck.

‘If I do have a bad game he is going to be there to push me.

‘I’m loving every minute of it, so I just have to take it game by game.

‘Basically, if I play well it’s my shirt.

‘I don’t think I’ve played that badly enough to warrant being dropped.

‘It’s up to me to be consistent every week – that’s what I’m planning to do.’

Henderson has been impressed with the approach of his new manager since Appleton succeeded Cotterill in November.

Pompey’s form was good going into the Boxing Day clash with Millwall, a game which should have seen the team’s unbeaten run continue.

Henderson felt the Blues failed to apply the footballing principles Appleton has preached since coming into the role.

An attacking impetus was also noticeably missing at times, at The Den, as Pompey registered just one shot on target across 90 minutes.

Henderson believes that will be the exception rather than the rule, once his new manager gets his messages across.

He said: ‘The manager’s been absolutely brilliant since he came in.

‘The pitch saw us struggle to play our game against Millwall.

‘We ended up hitting it quite long at times. That’s not the game we want to play.

‘The manager’s instructions are to play pure football. I’m sure the Pompey fans will see that soon.

‘The formation is the manager’s decision. If he thinks we are attacking, playing the way we are, that is what we will do.

‘I know the fans have been saying about 4-4-2 – but we’ve been on a good streak of results.

‘Millwall was a bit of a hiccup, but we’ll get it going again.’

Henderson has seen four clean sheets come his way in the league games he’s been in goal for.

Pompey have looked largely resilient of late, too, but the former Aston Villa man has not been happy with a trickle of goals conceded.

He feels his team have the quality to plug that gap at the back completely.

Henderson said: ‘We’ve been doing okay lately but we could have kept more clean sheets.

‘Even against Southampton, if we deal with their goal that’s a 1-0 win.

‘I like to come for stuff and will never shy away from that.

‘I think Pearcey got the blame but we have to hold our hands up as a group.

‘I came for a few against Millwall and it will always be something I will do.

‘But I think we should be looking to concede fewer goals.’