Cotterill staying cautious over Lawrence

Liam Lawrence could be on the bench for the trip to Leicester
Liam Lawrence could be on the bench for the trip to Leicester
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Jez Bedford in Pompey training. Picture: Sarah Standing (170841)

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The results may indicate otherwise, but Steve Cotterill is adamant Pompey have missed Liam Lawrence.

Now the talismanic midfielder is back, free from injury and ready to provide his undoubted quality – except the Blues boss has no intention of rushing him into his side.

Pompey won four and lost one of the five matches Lawrence spent on the sidelines with a calf problem.

In addition, they scored seven goals and kept four clean sheets.

With on-loan Swansea midfielder David Cotterill flourishing as his replacement on the right wing, it was a blow which was certainly cushioned.

Lawrence made his long-awaited comeback against Middlesbrough on Saturday, coming off the bench for the final 31 minutes in the 0-0 draw at Fratton Park.

That was after just one full training session under his belt.

There will be plenty more opportunities for the 29-year-old to get out on to the training ground in the build-up to this weekend’s trip to Leicester.

But Cotterill remains cautious of pushing Lawrence back into the fray too soon.

And the Republic of Ireland international could well find himself remaining on the bench for that Walkers Stadium visit.

Cotterill said: ‘Over the five games Liam has been out, it would look – because of our results – that we haven’t missed him.

‘But for sure we have – you couldn’t fail to miss a player of Liam’s quality.

‘Against Middlesbrough, he didn’t have the influence you perhaps would have hoped, but that calf has been quite painful for him.

‘I would have liked him to have made more of an impact.

‘But I don’t think it was possible for him, he’s not been training enough.

‘But we are pleased he is back in the fray and, hopefully, he can stay injury-free now until the end of the season.

‘In the build-up to the Boro game, he trained lightly on Thursday and properly with the boys on Friday.

‘He had done only a day’s training, it was not enough.

‘I didn’t want to put him on with any more than about 30 minutes to go – that was the top time he was going to get.

‘What could have happened is he would have pulled his calf again, based on fatigue.

‘There was no way he was going to start the game and I might not even start him this week at Leicester.

‘We need to see where we are in the week and nurse him back through this.

‘Let’s wait and see where he is.’

Not that Pompey will get an opportunity to ‘nurse’ Lawrence much longer.

The midfielder will next week link-up with the Republic of Ireland – and with Cotterill’s unequivocal blessing.

On Saturday, March 26, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men face Macedonia in a European Championship qualifying match.

The following Tuesday (March 29) they then have a friendly with Uruguay in Dublin.

Such international commitments may be viewed as too much, too soon for a player who has spent the past month on the sidelines.

But Cotterill has no qualms about Lawrence returning to the Irish scene so swiftly.

He added: ‘Liam will be off with the Republic of Ireland next week – they’ve got a game.

‘We want him to be fit and if he goes there and has a game for the Republic then no problem.

‘Mr Trapattoni has been very, very good.

‘When we’ve asked for Liam to be left out of the squad before, he’s left him out.

‘Liam’s obviously a priority for me – but if he’s fit he will go with our blessing.’