Unlikely source eyeing more assist glory

Stephen Henderson and Luke Varney celebrate a job well done. Picture: Barry Zee
Stephen Henderson and Luke Varney celebrate a job well done. Picture: Barry Zee
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It was the sweeping pass which carved out Luke Varney’s Pompey opener.

What’s more, the creative influence was supplied by the unlikely figure of the Blues’ goalkeeper.

Not that the architect, Stephen Henderson, believes there was anything fortunate about that third-minute goal.

Instead, he is targeting reaching 10 assists this season.

With barely over two minutes on the clock against Doncaster, Henderson launched a left-footed goal-kick.

It comfortably cleared the midfield area before bouncing to Varney inside the box, who nudged the ball past Neil Sullivan.

Unquestionably route one – not that Pompey fans were complaining at a rare first-half goal this season.

Varney went on to grab another and Dave Kitson also weighed in as the hosts won 3-1.

It was Henderson’s fourth league appearance since arriving in the summer.

And the 23-year-old is adamant there are plenty more assists to come as he continues to establish himself in the Blues side.

He said: ‘I kicked the ball as far as I could and, luckily, Varns was the man on the end of it. It was a great finish.

‘I get quite a lot of assists, actually. Honestly.

‘I do aim to pick people out instead of just hoofing it as far as I can. So I’ll claim that as an assist, why not.

‘I work on it, you can use your strengths. The lads know what I am going to do so it’s just about hitting the target and then them finishing it, which Varns did brilliantly.

‘The management here want me to release the ball as quickly as I can, so it’s a game plan.

‘I shouldn’t really be giving the game away, but the lads know I am going to hit the ball as far as I can.

‘Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it worked on Saturday, thankfully.

‘Goalkeepers don’t normally get assists but I’m not going to complain.

‘I’ll just keep it going and hopefully I’ll get 10 assists this season.’

Henderson is steadily enhancing his Pompey reputation as he looks to keep Jamie Ashdown at arm’s length.

Having been thrown a surprise Championship debut against Leeds earlier this month, the youngster has looked an assured presence.

Against Rovers, he had no chance of preventing Simon Gillett’s thunderous drive which at the time levelled the scoreline.

Similarly, he was helpless to thwart Keith Andrews, who grabbed the only goal of the game against Ipswich last week.

Still, it was back to winning ways against Doncaster at Fratton Park.

Although, the Portman Road result still rankles with Henderson.

He added: ‘To be fair, against Doncaster I didn’t have a save to make in the second half.

‘That speaks volumes of the lads in front of me and we definitely deserved that result.

‘This league is crazy, though, it’s unbelievable. Some of the games thrown away this season have been shocking so I never take anything for granted.

‘I don’t want to even think about Ipswich. It was one of those games. I have never seen the likes of it, to be honest, with the chances we had.

‘You could see the writing was on the wall – then they got a lucky goal. He shanked it in as well.

‘That happens. If you don’t take your chances you deserve to get punished.’