Erik Huseklepp is fast becoming Pompey’s ‘go-to man’, according to Guy Whittingham.
The Norwegian forward netted a first-half strike that oozed real class in the 3-0 win over Nottingham Forest at the weekend.
Huseklepp then showed he also has poacher’s instincts when he followed it up with a scruffy close-range effort as he converted David Norris’ cross.
Now with three goals to the 27-year-old’s name since his summer switch from Bari, joint caretaker boss Whittingham has seen the skilful forward’s influence on the team grow steadily.
Andrew Flintoff was often known as the go-to man during his England cricket career: the guy who could make something happen when the team needed a lift.
And while Huseklepp is perhaps not quite Pompey’s talisman just yet, Whittingham believes he adds the creativity and quality to the Blues that will see his stock continue to soar as he settles in at Fratton Park.
Whittingham said: ‘We’ve all been impressed with the way he just comes alive on the ball.
‘With Erik, he doesn’t take his time on the ball and that’s why people get a lift when he gets it.
‘He lights things up and he starts off sharp and quick.
‘Whatever he does with it, he tries to do it quickly and inject some pace into things and that’s so important to the team.
‘The other players know that if they need an outlet and Erik’s available, he can go forward with it and create something. He adds that spark.
‘His first goal was a great finish. It was fantastic technique, but it is something he works on.
‘The second one was scrappy but as an ex-striker myself, I like to see those end up in the back of the net.
‘I’m really pleased for Erik because he is a hard worker. Goals give you a lift and Erik’s certainly did that for us.’
It’s taken time for Huseklepp to adjust to English football and Whittingham believes it is still a work in progress.
But the caretaker boss is confident that the position wide on the left is where Pompey will get the best from their man.
Whittingham said: ‘We know what he’s like on the ball but we are also trying to encourage him to do the horrible side, which you need to do over here.
‘What we know at the moment is that left flank is his favourite side. He’s a bit like Luke Varney, though, and is quite happy playing in several different positions.’
The former Pompey forward added with a smile: ‘When we are thinking about dropping Luke, we can put Erik up front – after all, Luke hasn’t scored for a few games now!’