Spirit of Benjani lives on in Taylor

'Dagenham v Pompey'Victoria Road''Picture: Joe Pepler
'Dagenham v Pompey'Victoria Road''Picture: Joe Pepler
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Andy Awford has told his striker about the legend of Benjani.

‘There was a forward around here a few years ago,’ Awfs told Ryan Taylor.

‘He couldn’t score for his life (or a very similar phrase to the same effect...) but the fans loved him because he ran all day.’

It was the caretaker manager giving his current preferred hitman an insight into what fans require around here – and what he is demanding since assuming control.

The response has been to see the spirit of Benjani raised in Pompey’s survival fight.

Awford used the example of Benjani. He could have used plenty of others to make his point. Guy Whittingham was chasing lost causes when Taylor was in nappies. Paul Walsh, Lee Bradbury and Billy Rafferty would have done the trick, too.

Taylor’s performances in the past three games have seen a man rejuvenated and been a testament to one of the strongest weapons on Awford’s armoury: His man-management skills.

We don’t have access to Taylor’s running stats here at The News but eyes will suffice when it comes to telling you they will make impressive reading.

The display he delivered at Dagenham & Redbridge underlined his willingness to run himself into the ground.

It also showcased a growing confidence which clearly had plummeted after falling out of favour at Bristol City.

Awford has implemented a 4-2-3-1 formation which has been a revelation in his tenure to date.

Taylor has been fundamental to its success as the focal point up front.

To see the way he set about bullying the Daggers back line on Saturday underlined why its working.

Jack Connors and Brian Saah are two of the more hard-nosed League Two defenders around. Taylor bashed them around.

It was his display and the deep-lying support which set the tone for Saturday’s win.

So often it’s been the fans lifting the team this season.

The players provided the catalyst in east London, as they tore into their opponents from kick-off.

With Taylor at the heart of things, Pompey pressed high up the pitch and went hunting in packs. The result was a season-high performance.

A potential deficiency in the current system is the loneliness of the lone striker.

It’s an area Awford has raised concerns about but Taylor’s hold-up play, and the willing runs of those behind him, have ensured that’s not the case.

And to think fans chanted for 4-4-2 when the same system was employed against Northampton in December.

The manner in which it has been implemented by the current regime has proved, when done properly, it can be devastating.

Much of the thanks for that must go to Taylor.

Pompey have scored seven goals in the past three games. They, conservatively, could have scored seven more. It could have realistically been six by half-time on Saturday.

Four goals in 15 Pompey appearances is a steady rather than spectacular return from the Yorkshireman. It has prompted those who know plenty about the art of sticking the ball in the back of the net, like Ray Crawford, to question whether he is natural goalscorer.

Benjani took 15 attempts at breaking his duck before scoring a goal which helped complete the Great Escape in 2005.

He left Pompey as the Premier League’s top scorer two years later.

No one is expecting that from Taylor.

Simply, more of the same at present will see Pompey fans continue to embrace another striker who answers their demand for graft.