Forward backed to fire up Pompey

Benjani caught the eye against West Ham
Benjani caught the eye against West Ham
Sylvain Deslandes could play at left-back if Dion Donohue is switched to midfield

Pompey boss encouraged by ‘good options’

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Steve Cotterill believes the improvement in Benjani has now given him some serious attacking options.

The Pompey boss handed the Zimbabwean a first start since his return to the club in the 4-3 loss at West Ham.

And the 33-year-old, who has been way short of match fitness after joining on a free transfer, looked back to his old self with a performance full of energy and commitment.

Benjani also thought he had netted his first goal for the club since his comeback, only for David Norris’ header to have been ruled to have already crossed the line before the forward made absolutely sure from close range.

But Cotterill was impressed with the striker’s all-round contribution.

He said: ‘I thought Benjani was great.

‘We haven’t worked him hard to get him fit – he’s worked very hard on himself to get fitter because he knew he needed to do that.

‘He was very committed and I thought he was excellent. I’m really, really happy with him and, hopefully, he’s going to get better and better.’

Benjani certainly adds an extra dimension with his added work-rate.

But he will know himself that he needs his first goal to come along sooner rather than later.

With Dave Kitson out through illness on Saturday, Cotterill revealed he would have left the former Reading striker out for the West Ham clash anyway.

And with another new recruit, Marko Futacs, making his debut from the bench – and Erik Huseklepp and Luke Varney both impressing in the wide positions and Kanu also available to call upon – Cotterill now has competition for places.

He said: ‘Dave Kitson was unwell but I’d had a long time to think about how I was going to play this game and I would have done that, anyway.

‘The system worked well. We played some great football against a very good side.

‘I thought the fluency in our play was great but we set up for that.

‘We have had a little bit of time. We’ve had two weeks to think about it and look at how West Ham play.’

Huseklepp also turned in a much-improved display on the right flank after struggling against Cardiff and provided the cross for Norris’ equaliser when he had switched to the left.

But Cotterill believes the Norwegian still needs time to adjust to English football.

Cotterill said: ‘I thought Erik did okay but he was in a team performance. It’s not the Erik Huseklepp show.

‘I would rather talk about the team. He is part of the team and is just settling in.

‘He was good going forward but he needs to work on the other side of his game. That has to happen in the UK.

‘But I thought they were all good.’