Pompey: Number nine is just fine for Marc McNulty

Marc McNulty, centre, and pal Caolan Lavery, right. Picture: Joe Pepler
Marc McNulty, centre, and pal Caolan Lavery, right. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Marc McNulty is confident he can take on Caolan Lavery’s attacking mantle in the wake of his departure.

McNulty has been tasked with leading the line for Pompey after Lavery returned to Sheffield Wednesday earlier this month.

The Scottish international was disappointed to see his pal go back to Hillsborough, and told The News on Wednesday he hasn’t given up hope of linking up with the Irishman again.

His exit saw McNulty move from a withdrawn position in Paul Cook’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to a role as an out-and-out striker.

Gary Roberts’ return to action after his ankle injury has also helped offset Lavery’s departure.

McNulty explained playing as a ‘number nine’ is a role he is perfectly comfortable with.

It was the position he was operating in as he bagged 13 goals for Sheffield United last season to finish as their top scorer.

And he is confident he can steadily add to the seven goals he has netted since joining the Blues in the role.

McNulty said: ‘Before I came to Portsmouth I played more as a number nine through the middle.

‘I’ve come here and the gaffer has used me more as a number 10, as they say.

‘I’ve scored a few goals and chipped in with a couple of assists from that position.

‘To be honest, I don’t know what’s my best position and I certainly don’t care where I play.

‘As long as I’m playing and I’m out there on the pitch as part of a winning team I’m happy.

‘I’ve had a few assists which is always good.

‘If you can’t score yourself then you need to assist.

‘That’s the way it goes and I’m happy to do that.

‘I’m comfortable with either. As a player in general you should be comfortable with more than one role.

‘I’ve got one or two positions and that’s fine.’

McNulty was at pains to stress the importance of the players around him in allowing him to hit the goal trail since arriving at Fratton Park.

Tuesday’s FA Cup win over Ipswich Town was an example of that as Gareth Evans put his headed finish on a plate for him, with a delightful flighted cross.

The attacking freedom Cook affords his team was another key factor McNulty pinpointed for his impressive form since arriving.

He said: ‘I won’t score goals if people don’t provide the service.

‘It’s all credit to the lads for providing it.

‘The gaffer’s philosophy, no matter who we play, will remain the same, too.

‘We played Ipswich, a Championship team, at their ground and it was the same principle.

‘No disrespect to League Two sides but it will be the same against them as sides from a higher division.

‘It’s everyone attacking and those principles are paying off.

‘The boys have bought into it – and it’s shown.’

All the time Lavery is not at Pompey, Conor Chaplin finds himself closer to a starting role.

McNulty had words of praise and some advice for the teenage marksman, whose eight goals this season have largely arrived from the bench.

‘Conor Chaplin must be a bit frustrated because he gets a lot of goals,’ said McNulty.

‘He’s still young and I’ve said that to him. I’ve had to do a bit of that in my time.

‘I had to do it last season at Sheffield United.

‘I was top goalscorer but still couldn’t get a game every week.

‘The benefit is you learn a lot from it and it helps you in the long run.

‘He’ll be a very good player, that’s for sure.’

McNulty’s decisive goal ensured Ipswich were put to the sword on Tuesday in the 2-1 win.

That set up next Saturday’s date with Premier League Bournemouth at Fratton Park – a present McNulty was delighted to give supporters.

He said: ‘It’s massive. It’s not just about the players being excited for it, it’s about the fans as well.

‘They turn up in their numbers and back the boys every week.

‘That’s a a bit of excitement for them and,to play a team from along the road, is exciting for us, too.’