Appy: Return of our poacher will be key

Luke Varney is in line for a return against Middlesbrough this weekend
Luke Varney is in line for a return against Middlesbrough this weekend
Pompey's Jamal Lowe. Picture: Joe Pepler

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Michael Appleton geared up for the return of Luke Varney and vowed: He can be our fox in the box.

Varney is closing in on a Pompey comeback after nearly 11 weeks on the sidelines with a knee injury.

And Appleton feels that will give his attack the cutting edge it has been lacking in recent weeks.

The Blues have scored just one goal in their past five games as they find themselves five points from safety in the Championship.

Appleton knows the lack of firepower is an issue, especially after the departure of top goalscorer Erik Huseklepp.

But he believes a return to the fray for Varney will remedy that problem.

Appleton insists the £750,000 summer arrival from Derby possesses the kind of poacher’s instinct that has been missing.

And that is going to prove critical over the final 14 games of the campaign.

Appleton said: ‘Tal (Ben Haim) had a shot that whizzed across the face of goal recently against Ipswich.

‘I said to the boys that if that was the opposition, it’s a tap-in for (Michael) Chopra.

‘He’s a poacher and sniffs on things.

‘Even the throw-in that went in against Leeds is a tap-in for a poacher, for me.

‘A poacher reads that, sees a defender is going to miss it and steps on to it.

‘We’re missing that a bit at the moment – but Luke will give us that.’

Varney is one of a number of Blues players who are edging close to a return as Pompey move into the deciding period of the campaign.

Liam Lawrence hopes to be back for Saturday’s meeting with Middlesbrough and Kelvin Etuhu is recovering from a hamstring injury.

David Norris also came off the bench to make his return in the goalless draw against Leeds on Saturday after his hernia operation.

Those extra bodies will be critical, given Appleton’s obvious lack of options.

Saturday’s meeting with Boro marks the start of eight games in March – with five of them being played at Fratton Park.

Appleton believes that will give the likes of Varney the run outs they need to quickly get match fitness.

New loan recruit Scott Allan also needs to build up his sharpness after a lack of first-team action of late.

Appleton said: ‘They’ll need games to get up to speed – but there are certainly enough of those come March.

‘They’ll certainly get their quota over the next couple of months.

‘After the Middlesbrough game it becomes chaos.

‘There’s so many games and so little time to prepare for them.

‘Hopefully, we can get the same amount of fans in as Saturday, get a similar level of performance and get some points.

‘We have eight home games left and they are going to be crucial for us.’