Throughout the majority of this season, the Blues head coach has deployed a 3-4-3 formation with wing backs on the flanks.
This appeared to be the ex-Lincoln boss’ preferred formation, with him expected to continue using it during the final weeks of the campaign.
Ahead of the Fratton outfits trip to Bolton, though, the visitors lined-up in a 4-4-2 – which has been in use since the 1-1 draw at the University of Bolton in matches against Cheltenham, Rotherham, and Lincoln.
The slight reinvention of Cowley’s side has seen them win two, draw one, and lose one of their past four matches – while scoring seven goals across the 360 minutes of football.
Not only has the team benefitted as a whole, but individuals such as George Hirst and the ex-Sunderland man are now reaping the rewards.
The Leicester loanee scored against Rotherham and Lincoln, while the latter netted against Ian Evatt’s side two-weeks-ago – which he believes has transformed him back into the striker who performed well in London.
The Republic of Ireland international scored 44 goals in 226 appearances for the Lions, before his move to Sunderland in July 2020.
And after a difficult spell in the north east, where he was limited to substitute appearances and cup-starts, the 28-year-old believes he’s re-discovering his former self on the south coast.
O’Brien told The News: ‘It (switching to 4-4-2) has helped me massively because most of my work is up the pitch instead of on the edge of the box.
‘I am able to receive the ball just in front of the centre backs where they can’t press me. Then I’m able to turn and then I can do my bit running at the defenders, picking passes, creating stuff and having shots.
‘I feel exactly how I remember myself playing when I was in form before the whole thing at Sunderland. I feel really good.
‘It just bring me back to thinking “this is really enjoyable”.’