Pompey boss: Conor's the Football League's finest

PAUL COOK branded Pompey hero Conor Chaplin the finest goalscorer outside the Premier League.

Monday, 16th January 2017, 6:01 am
Updated Monday, 16th January 2017, 11:17 am
Conor Chaplin shows his joy during Pompey's victory against Leyton Orient. Picture: Joe Pepler

And the Blues boss admitted he may now scrap his striker search in favour of handing the youngster more game time.

The teenager struck twice on his return to the starting XI to inspire Pompey to Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Leyton Orient.

Back in the side following nine matches away, Chaplin revelled in Cook’s decision to operate with a 4-4-2.

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Carl Baker created both goals, while the home-grown talent also missed a first-half penalty.

Still, Chaplin found himself among the goals for the first time since late October.

And Cook hailed the presence of Pompey’s newly-crowned joint-leading scorer.

He said: ‘We use Conor as we feel right for the young lad, we’ve brought him along in a fashion we know.

‘People say we need a goalscorer, well we probably have the best goalscorer in the country outside the Premier League so perhaps don’t need one after all.

‘We might just need to play him.

‘I brought Conor back into the side because he scores goals. Up until last week at Doncaster we weren’t losing a lot of games and I thought everything was going along quite well. However, at home in previous games we weren’t really looking a threat.

‘If you have goals on the pitch, like we had on Saturday, we might lower our guard in other areas, but we might be stronger in goalscoring.

‘Conor needs managing, though, his fitness levels and endurance levels aren’t great, yet he is such an explosive impact player, a fantastic player, and the club are very proud of him.

‘He does tire in games, that is why we brought him off, but kept trying our best to keep the two lads up front, ending with Jamal Lowe up there.

‘We want to score goals, we want to do what our fans want us to do. Pompey fans would prefer us to draw having a right go than draw being structured, so I think we are all for that now.

‘And I believe Saturday’s result proved it was a decent decision to bring back Conor.’

Chaplin lined-up alongside Michael Smith in attack for the very first time this season.

That was as a consequence of Cook ditching his favoured 4-2-3-1 system and going with two strikers.

Smith had a header cleared off the line in the first half during another hard-working display.

And Cook felt the ex-Swindon man also warranted praise for his role in the win.

He added: ‘A fan behind me had a pop about Michael to me at half-time, but I don’t grasp it. He works his socks off for the team and on Saturday was part of a really good winning side.

‘He is such a committed kid. Conor takes all the plaudits, but I think Conor will be the first to tell you how hard Michael worked for him.’