Pompey boss Cook happy to feed off Hunt

Pompey striker Noel Hunt Picture: Joe Pepler
Pompey striker Noel Hunt Picture: Joe Pepler
Brandon Haunstrup in action against Bury. Picture: Joe Pepler

Local lad after Pompey starting role for keeps

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Paul Cook is adamant ‘exuberant’ Noel Hunt can continue lifting Pompey – on and off the pitch.

The experienced striker has scored once since his summer arrival from Southend and is yet to start a League Two match.

However, the Blues’ boss believes the ex-Reading man has made some telling contributions from the substitutes’ bench.

Hunt netted the crucial second goal in last month’s 4-0 victory over Mansfield, while also made a hard-working impact at Cambridge United when Pompey operated with 10 men.

The dressing-room brawl which deprived Cook of two substitutes ensured the 33-year-old was unused last time out against Stevenage.

Nonetheless, the bubbly Hunt continues to be a worthy presence.

Cook said: ‘Noel has done great, he’s a great lad.

‘He has a really good effect on the club, possessing that exuberance which lifts rooms.

‘He’s had one or two little injuries but, at the minute, has a great effect on the team when he comes off the bench.

‘Admittedly, he didn’t have such a great impact when starting against Wycombe in the FA Cup, but then again neither did we as a team.

‘However, when he comes off the bench, even away at Exeter, he helps us. Noel knows the game inside out, is a good lad and very knowledgeable.

‘We are delighted with Noel and the effect he has.’

A niggling groin problem forced him off in a reserve match against Newport County in September.

The issue sidelined him for seven games – a period of absence which saw Conor Chaplin establish himself in the first team.

Hunt was handed a first Pompey start against Wycombe in the FA Cup, although the team failed to perform in a 2-1 Fratton Park defeat.

But since recovering full fitness, Cook has regularly turned to the Irishman from the bench.

His willingness to work the channels, football intelligence and canny experience have often been a stabilising influence late in matches.

The re-emergence of Michael Smith with a return of three goals in three matches has nudged Hunt a little further down the pecking order.

Yet he remains a regular squad presence and Cook is delighted with his attitude, as demonstrated by shrugging off an early-season injury.

The Blues boss added: ‘We have not really had manage Noel’s injury.

‘It was him holding himself back more than us because he wanted to get back his power and explosiveness, as well as the timing into his jumping.

‘He’s got his head down and worked really hard to get himself back.

‘You just want everyone to be as fit as they can be so all our players are available.

‘It is a long season and you need a good squad.’