Lawrence a central figure in Cotterill's plans

Pompey midfielder Carl Baker Picture: Joe Pepler

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Liam Lawrence has been backed to make his temporary central-midfield stay a permanent one.

The former Stoke man has vacated his usual right-wing berth to line up in the middle of the park for the past two matches.

It's been a positional switch largely forced by diminishing squad numbers.

Nonetheless, Cotterill has been impressed with what the 29-year-old has to offer in his new role.

Lawrence appears on course to shake off the hip problem which forced him off in the FA Cup defeat to Brighton.

That will enable him to retain his centre-midfield spot for the trip to Nottingham Forest this weekend.

And Cotterill admitted he can see the Republic of Ireland international's positional change becoming full-time.

He said: 'I think Liam could play in the centre of midfield regularly.

'He is pretty flexible. He can play anywhere across those midfield positions.

'I thought him and Hayden in there were tremendous against Hull and him staying there permanently wouldn't be something I would rule out.

'It is something I spoke to him about when he joined us, even going back to just before he signed.

'When I bring somebody in I always like to know if they have got another position up their sleeve because when you have got a smaller squad it doesn't half help.

'Liam plays wide from out to in and when he plays central he plays from in to out.

'I know that might sound puzzling but I know what I mean.

'That's a couple of positions now he has played for us.

'I remember asking him at Middlesbrough at half-time – when we were 2-0 down – if he had ever played right-back.

'He said "no" so I told him he would do by the end of the day! That was a shock to him and it worked.

'As for the centre of midfield, do I risk playing him in there all the time and being permanent?

'I don't think he would mind to be honest.

'It's just that when he is in there and all the muck and the bullets are flying around, the other day against Hull, I found him drifting wide in the game because he needs to get on the ball and wants to deliver.

'Then, of course, you think "what do I do now if I get someone to play on the right-hand side instead?"'

David Nugent has been playing on the right flank as a result of the reshuffle.

In turn, that sees Pompey's leading scorer and arguably player of the season so far moved out of his favoured striking role.

For Cotterill, it's about juggling his threadbare squad in an attempt to fill in the gaps.

Not that he has much of a choice of who will partner Hayden Mullins in the centre of the park.

Greg Halford is still suspended, while Tom Kilbey is aged just 20 and seen as too inexperienced at present.

The drawback for the Blues boss, however, is the Lawrence scenario weakens his team elsewhere.

He added: 'The thing is, I think it's all about getting relationships with players within that team and your right-back.

'If Ward or Halford play at right-back and Liam is in front of them, predominantly, they know what he is going to do and when he is going to do it.

'They have learned when they can overlap and when they can't from playing behind him this season.

'Now they have to learn all over again with someone else.

'Liam has ended up starting in central midfield and will be thinking who sits out of him and Hayden and when.

'Whereas, perhaps Hayden and Michael (Brown) had started to get a bit of a relationship going.

'It's all about getting familiar in your position but, unfortunately, we have no choice but to change things at the moment.'