'A proper old-fashioned number nine': The Leicester City and ex-Sheffield Wednesday man earmarked to inspire Portsmouth
Danny Cowley savoured a scintillating performance from a ‘proper old-fashioned number nine’.
And he’s banking on George Hirst’s star turn against Crystal Palace Under-21s serving as a catalyst for his spluttering Pompey career.
The 22-year-old has endured a disappointing time since arriving on a season-long loan from Leicester City, struggling to shine.
However, he last night produced a superb display on only his third Blues start in the 3-0 triumph over Palace.
Hirst dramatically netted in the second minute of time added-on to earn Pompey progress into the knock-out stages in the Papa John’s Trophy.
Now Cowley is eyeing the striker as a candidate to face Wycombe on Saturday in place of the misfiring John Marquis.
Pompey’s boss told The News: ‘I thought George was excellent, he led the line like a proper old-fashioned number nine.
‘He held it up, he ran the channels, I thought he was a goal threat all night.
‘Nicky asked me in the second half if George had run over a black cat or something because he so deserved a goal, but he kept going and got the third and all-important one.
‘He had a difficult year last season, which no doubt affected his confidence.
‘He picked up a nasty hamstring injury at the back end of that season, which meant his preparation leading into the season was affected.
‘He only came to us right at the end of the pre-season, he wasn’t fit, so wasn't able to hit the ground running.
‘After the game, he said to me it felt the weight of the world had been lifted off his shoulders and you have to remember they are just young boys and care an awful lot.
‘Let’s hope this goal is a catalyst for George and a platform for him to now push on from.’
Palace represented Hirst’s 14th outing for Pompey – and yielded a maiden goal.
In terms of League One, he has appeared 10 times, yet each occasion has been off the bench, with Marquis continually preferred.
Yet Marquis’ ongoing first-team selection is under intense scrutiny at present, with 11 goals in his last 49 appearances in all competitions.
And Cowley is hoping Hirst can now replicate that Palace performance to challenge for the striking spot.
He added: ‘He needs that consistency, game in, game out, every week. Be a real handful, it would help the team so much.
‘I think he is ready to challenge (John Marquis), absolutely, he put his hand up last night.
‘We spoke in depth on Monday and it’s an opportunity for him, he knows that, he just had to take it – and he did last night.
‘Good on him.’
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