Michael Smith is ready to thrive following his timely Cheltenham confidence boost.
That is the verdict of Michael Doyle, who is convinced his colleague can now break into Pompey’s first team on a regular basis.
The one thing people probably don’t take into account is he missed a lot of pre-season with a calf injury and that set him back at the start of the campaignMichael Doyle
The striker has totalled just 19 minutes in League Two since the September defeat at Blackpool.
However, he announced his arrival from the bench at Cheltenham on Saturday by grabbing an equaliser in the Blues’ 1-1 draw.
It represented Smith’s first league goal since April – although, during that period he registered a Checkatrade Trophy hat-trick at Yeovil.
Now, in the absence of the suspended Conor Chaplin, he tonight will line up against the Hatters (7.45pm).
And Doyle believes the 25-year-old is poised to kick-start his season into life.
He said: ‘Michael’s had a tough time, it has been difficult for him.
‘Football is like that for strikers and it’s nice to see him get a goal like that at Cheltenham. Hopefully, it will kick-start him for the season and he gets going.
‘It takes a lot of pressure off him, fair play to him, he has followed up when the keeper spilt it and got his just rewards.
‘Football is all about confidence, especially for strikers. They are judged on that end of the field and have chances which must be taken.
‘I think it has been difficult for him after being outstanding for us last season.
‘The one thing people probably don’t take into account is he missed a lot of pre-season with a calf injury and that set him back at the start of the campaign.
‘Little things like that people from the outside probably don’t see when they judge him on a Saturday, but that happens in football.
‘He has probably been a victim of that, yet football is about looking within yourself and what you want to be – and he took his chance on Saturday.
‘He has got his head down and kept working, that is all he can do. The only person who can change things when it is not going well for you is yourself, nobody else is going to do it.
‘And we need more of that from him.’
Smith scored four goals in 16 appearances during last season’s loan spell from Swindon.
He has so far failed to recapture his form since joining in a permanent Pompey deal in the summer.
With Curtis Main coming back from an abdominal strain, it leaves Smith has beaten off Noel Hunt for a Kenilworth Road starting spot.
Doyle added: ‘It’s disappointing to lose Conor, they have been little petty bookings and it is probably something he is going to have to learn from.
‘I didn’t think it was a yellow card on Saturday. To be fair to the ref, he had a good game, but people weren’t getting booked for a few late challenges, yet Conor has it for protesting over a handball.
‘We have players desperate for a chance tonight, though.
‘Michael starts but Hunty has been working hard, got his goal against Mansfield and, at the weekend, made a massive difference when he came on.
‘He got us up the pitch at the right time and is a very clever player.’