Sonks is just the man for Cotterill

Matt Clarke. Picture: Joe Pepler

Gaffer: Pompey defender needs to return to centre-back

Kick it, head it – Ibrahima Sonko does exactly what it says on the tin. Yet Steve Cotterill wouldn't have it any other way.

The on-loan Stoke defender leaves many footballing purists wincing, while occasionally prompts butterflies in the stomachs of Pompey fans.

Nonetheless, there can be no questioning the effectiveness of a player who shone during the Blues' cruel 2-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest on Saturday.

Sonko was a tower of strength and an impregnable presence for 87 minutes against the promotion hopefuls.

An unfortunate own goal – his second of the season – let Billy Davies' men back in it, before the hosts stole it at the death.

Not that the 29-year-old's sliced finish past his own keeper should be allowed to detract from an excellent all-round display at the heart of the defence.

Sonko may still have his critics over the full-blooded way he plays the game and a penchant for the occasional high-profile mistake.

But his Pompey manager insists the Senegalese defender is a man he wants in his Championship defence.

Cotterill said: 'You know what Sonks is about – don't ask for anything silky.

'The one thing you know about him is he will give you everything, that's what he is.

'Don't expect him to be Rio Ferdinand back there on the ball.

'The one thing for sure, he is very strong in the air and you need that in this league.

'The more you find out about your players, the less disappointed you are with them and he headed nearly every ball out of our box against Forest. I thought he was a tower of strength and the late goals they got could have come earlier if it hadn't been for him.

'Certainly if Aaron (Mokoena) would have come round and covered that space he would have headed it and it wouldn't have gone in for that first goal.

'I know what Sonks is, I'm not surprised.

'What you have got to bear in mind is there have been some very, very good players at this football club. International centre-halves have played at this football club.

'Sonks hasn't reached that. Instead, he's here, he is on loan and he tries his best.

'He will do okay sometimes and stick in a pass which will find its target and be confident.

'He had a real go at the weekend – like all of the team did.'

While Sonko may have caught the eye at Forest, it was Kanu who left a lasting impression.

The veteran striker recorded his first goal since March last year with his 26th-minute opener.

Yet it was the manner of his finish which had the visiting fans licking their lips.

Kanu used his right foot to take the ball around keeper Lee Camp before coolly lashing home with his left.

It ended his run of 26 Pompey games without a goal.

And Cotterill was quick to pay tribute to his evergreen front man.

He added: 'The guy is an absolute legend. I've said I wish I had him 10 years ago.

'It would be fantastic to have him with all the ability he had 10 years ago.

'Unfortunately, I have not been that lucky but I count myself lucky that I have him.

'So now I enjoy him.'