Conor Chaplin has pushed himself into Paul Cook’s thoughts as he plots the defeat of Cambridge United.
The teenager scored twice against Reading under-21s in a behind-closed-doors friendly on Tuesday afternoon.
He had been pressed into the lone striking role which Matt Tubbs, Adam McGurk and Jayden Stockley have been vying for during the season so far.
The quality of Chaplin’s goal contributions was outstanding – the first a clever exchange of passes with Gary Roberts, while his second was directly from a free-kick.
With Stockley ruled out of tomorrow’s Abbey Stadium trip through an ankle problem and McGurk still out injured, Cook’s striking options have been reduced.
Yet Chaplin, who has netted four times this season, remains a consideration against a team Tubbs destroyed with a hat-trick last term.
What difference will it make to us if Conor plays up front, we are not trying to go over them are we? Whoever goes up there will find it difficultPaul Cook
Cook said: ‘Conor is playing really well but we just go and pick a team tomorrow which we hope will win the game
‘Conor actually played in the front line on Tuesday against Reading because nobody else was fit.
‘But when we come up against these mass defences we must be better at what we do, brighter.
‘That second goal in the week is why your Roberts’ and Chaplin’s are on pitches, one bit of magic.
‘We need that magic, we are not getting that magic at the minute but it will come.
‘What difference will it make to us if Conor plays up front, we are not trying to go over them are we?
‘Whoever goes up there will find it difficult.
‘If the game is a bit more open then the likelihood is we will hurt them.
If it’s not we must make sure we don’t concede sloppy goals.’
Meanwhile, Tubbs possesses an outstanding record of nine goals in eight games against Cambridge United.
And Cook is hoping for a more open game to suit him.
He added: ‘On Saturday we left Tubbsy on the pitch for as long as we could but the lack of balls going forward quick probably doesn’t help him.
‘Also the depth of how teams are defending doesn’t help him.
‘Last year there was more space at both ends of the pitch.
‘We are suffering this year with the defensive numbers and Tubbsy will suffer because when you make a run you are normally going into one of their defenders.’