No time for Portsmouth experiments amid calls for unproven youngster to solve striker crisis
Alfie Stanley has heeded his new boss' advice.
The striker's failure to count his goal tally in training last week meant he got some words of wisdom from Danny Cowley
He put that right on Monday, though, informing the Pompey head coach he'd bagged seven times that day when asked a second time.
Heading into tomorrow's League One visit of Rochdale, Stanley represents the Blues' solitary natural striker available.
John Marquis' appeal for the red card he was given at Shrewsbury was rejected, while Ellis Harrison and Jordy Hiwula's respective seasons are over through injury.
That's led to sections of supporters campaigning for Stanley to be handed the chance of spearheading the attack.
The former Mayfield School pupil plundered 26 goals for the academy last season, earning him third-year scholarship terms at his boyhood club.
At the beginning of the summer, player development coach Mark Kelly predicted an 'interesting' year for Stanley on the back of his prolific spell in the youth ranks.
However, at this crucial juncture of the Blues’ season, this is no time to start experimenting with an unproven fledgling talent.
Understandably, some will argue that Stanley will only ever get to grips with the demands of the Football League when given ample opportunity. The best way to hone your craft is on the job, garnering experience and learning from mistakes.
Yet we're not in November or December when, if the gamble doesn't work, then the consequences aren't as harsh.
Pompey have just 10 games remaining and are locked in a razor-tight play-off battle where there's little margin for error.
As we saw with Haji Mnoga – when he was asked to operate as a makeshift wing-back at Doncaster last month – it can prove costly.
For a 19-year-old to lead the line of a League One outfit going for promotion is tall order.
But for a youngster who's been the victim of a season in the midst of a pandemic, it's even tougher.
This term, Stanley has played just five senior games. Two of those arrived for Pompey in the Papa John's Trophy, while he bagged twice in three appearances on loan for non-league Bognor at the start of the term.
The curtailment of non-elite sport, coupled with the difficulties of organising reserve matches, has meant Stanley's profusely been restricted to Copnor Road.
Compare that to stopgap options like Ronan Curtis and Ryan Williams.
Both have been key cogs this season and amassed more than 200 senior games apiece in their respective careers.
There is a strong chance we’ll see Stanley take up a berth on the bench for the third time in League One against Rochdale, along with Wigan and Burton.
Cowley has been impressed with the North End ace's progress and a lack of forwards could see him get the nod among the subs over someone like Harvey White.
With five substitutions being brought in since he was last on the bench at Lincoln on November 3, that strengthens Stanley’s chances of coming on for a league debut - especially if Pompey are chasing a goal.
Should he be given a run-out, the teenager will undoubtedly display with the sort of heart, energy and commitment any Portsea Islander and lifelong fan would donning the star and crescent.
But in terms of who'll lead the attack from the outset in a high-pressure scenario, Pompey require the nous and know-how of a seasoned performer.
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