How Leicester City's ex-Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday man is shaking up Portsmouth's play as he chases John Marquis' starting spot

Danny Cowley outlined the new dimension George Hirst has added to Pompey’s game as he vies for a maiden league start.

Friday, 12th November 2021, 4:55 am

And the Blues boss has told how Hirst’s man-of-the-match performance against Crystal Palace under-21s has given his confidence a massive shot in the arm, ahead of the trip Wycombe.

The 22-year-old will challenge John Marquis for his starting place at Adams Park, after laying down a strong case for inclusion with his all-round display against the Premier League side’s youngsters.

Cowley explained the Leicester City loanee’s physical presence and link-up play allowed his side to play in a way they haven’t for much of the season, with Marquis leading the line.

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He said: ‘We had 20 attacking chains in the game on Tuesday - and George was involved in every one of them.

‘The amount of involvement in all our best attacking play was incredible really.

‘It was a really good number nine performance.

‘It wasn’t just his goal threat, but also his hold-up and link play.

Pompey striker George Hirst. Picture: Robin Jones/Digital South

‘All of a sudden we started to have some vertical passing patterns, we could go in and up.

‘We were able to get some third-man runs and up-back-throughs.

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‘These are patterns we really like, but haven’t been able to use as much as we want to.

‘John has played a lot of games and John gives you different qualities.’

Cowley reported how getting his maiden Pompey goal on Tuesday night has evidently released the shackles from Hirst, and and got his self-belief brimming.

The head coach believes the former Sheffield Wednesday has seen his morale take a hit due to a number of different factors.

But in the space of few days the outlook has changed considerably for the striker

Cowley added: ‘I’m just pleased for George.

‘I’ve been waiting for him to put his hand up, because I know what he is capable of.

‘To be fair to George, you try to work out the whys.

‘He had a really tough year last year in the Championship with Rotherham. He didn’t play as much as he would’ve liked with some good forwards in front of him.

‘He wasn’t able to find the goals which are always so important to number nines, and that probably knocked his confidence to a degree.

‘He then had an injury at the back end of the season which disrupted his pre-season, and he came to us very late.

‘So he’s been chasing his fitness and football is a game where you have to catch your breath. If you can’t do that you can’t always perform with the quality you want to, because you’re always fatigued in the moment. That can knock your confidence.

‘Now he feels the weight of the world has been lifted off his shoulders, in his words.

‘Now all of a sudden in training he looks full of confidence.’

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