Tal’s tough school is educating Erik

Matt Clarke celebrates his goal at MK Dons. Picture: Joe Pepler

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It has been the Welcome to the Championship initiation ceremony orchestrated by Tal Ben Haim.

The result has left Erik Huseklepp battered and bruised from his Pompey training ground encounters.

Nonetheless, the slight Norwegian credits his team-mates’ rough-handed treatment for toughening him up.

And he believes it paved the way for his match-winning display against Blackpool.

Huseklepp’s spectacular stoppage-time strike secured Pompey’s second win of the campaign on Saturday.

It was the crucial difference in a tight contest against Ian Holloway’s high-flying side.

But the 26-year-old’s all-round game was just as impressive as his flying 94th-minute volley.

In the build-up to the Fratton Park encounter, Steve Cotterill had joked his £1.5m recruit had been on the receiving end of some particularly meaty challenges in training.

Skipper Liam Lawrence later revealed Ben Haim had been leading the toughening-up process in his own inimitable manner.

Not that Huseklepp dare complain – he believes his team-mates’ helping feet have seen him settle.

He said: ‘The tackles are hard in the games and it is also like it in training.

‘It is no problem, I keep my head high and just work hard.

‘It’s okay. No-one wants to hurt me, of course. It is just how training is – and in the games as well.

‘I think it has prepared me. I am adjusting and getting better all the time.

‘I have heard the fans call me Erik the Viking. I may not be the toughest guy, but the name works for me.’

The decisive moment against Blackpool came during the fourth minute of time added on.

Greg Halford’s long throw from the right skimmed off the head of Ian Evatt and away from goal.

But there was Huseklepp with a flying right-foot volley from inside the box to net the winner in front of the Fratton end.

It was a maiden goal for the Norwegian on his fifth appearance since arriving from Bari during the transfer window. It also capped his most impressive Pompey start to date.

Operating on the left in place of the suspended Luke Varney, Huseklepp’s adjustment to the English game continued in encouraging fashion.

Meanwhile, he regards his stunning strike as one of his finest ever.

He added: ‘It was one of the nicest goals of my career.

‘It came to me and I just put out a foot and hit it well.

‘To score at Fratton Park in front of these fantastic fans is incredible for me.

‘The fans ever since I came here have been fantastic, they have been so noisy and it’s great just to play at home.

‘It was a very important result for us. I thought we played a good game, worked hard and in the end we got the three points.

‘We celebrated the goal with the manager – the group is very together.

‘We’ve had two bad results and wanted to show everybody we were happy when we scored.

‘We work together every week so we celebrate together.’