Portsmouth boss explains pros and cons of partnering Ellis Harrison with John Marquis up front at MK Dons

Danny Cowley hasn’t ruled out pairing John Marquis with Ellis Harrison up front against MK Dons today.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 4:55 am

The Pompey boss believes the strike duo’s strengths can compliment each other and help form an effective attacking partnership.

Yet he warned the Blues run the risk of losing an element of control in their game plan if he takes the decision to operating with two up top at Stadium MK.

Harrison has put himself in the reckoning for the trip to the Dons after this hat-trick in the midweek Papa John’s Trophy defeat at AFC Wimbledon.

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In his first start of the season, his three goals saw him leap to the top of the Blues’ scoring charts, with Marquis one of five players currently on one goal for the season to date.

And with his confidence clearly sky high after his Plough Lane showing, it’s started the debate whether the 27-year-old should lead the line ahead of his good friend in Cowley’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation or in a 4-3-3 system.

The possibility of pairing both Harrison and Marquis had also been assessed – something that Kenny Jackett experimented with sparingly without much success during his time in charge at Fratton Park.

Cowley is open to the idea – but stressed playing with two up front can lead to problems elsewhere.

Danny Cowley is weighing up partnering Ellis Harrison, left, with John Marquis

The Blues boss told The News: ‘We’re always open-minded, and what I’ve learnt in football is never say never.

‘I do think it’s possible that both players can play together.

‘If you look at their attributes, I think Ellis is a real handful who is able to occupy defenders.

‘I also think that Ellis can be unselfish and can link the play really well.

‘He can also stretch teams, and I think the lads were calling him Didier Drogba after his performance on Tuesday night.

‘He may need to do it a bit more regularly for me to call him that, but he appreciated the sentiment.

‘John is someone who likes to play out of the eye line, so there’s no reason why you couldn’t play Ellis, and have him occupy defenders and John play out of the eye line and ghost off the back of them.

‘I can see that being something that could be possible.’

Yet explaining why there’s an argument against pairing the duo together, Cowley added: ‘As a supporter myself, everyone wants to play with two upfront, but you can lose the control in doing so.

‘You may find it harder to gain the control, and it was similar on Tuesday, because we couldn’t gain control from the goalkeeper (Jake Eastwood) as we had someone who hadn’t been training with us.

‘I like my teams to have the control.’

Apart from a one-minute cameo appearance as a substitute against Shrewsbury last month, Harrison’s run-out on Tuesday night was his first under Cowley.

Injury ruled him out for the tail end of last season.

And despite talk of a move away during the summer, Cowley is adamant the striker is someone he can work well with.

‘Tuesday’s match against AFC Wimbledon was the first time I think we’ve had Ellis available to start competitively,’ he added.

‘I think Ellis can definitely play in a two, he did so with George Hirst against AFC Wimbledon and I think they were a handful.’