The challenge for Portsmouth's prized asset to show doubters he can deliver when it really matters
Ronan Curtis has been tipped to show his mental toughness and answer questions of his ability to deliver when it counts for Pompey.
And Blues boss Danny Cowley has told of the work being put in by the Blues attacker to channel his energy into making him a bigger threat for rival defences.
Curtis has been a central figure under the new management team, starting nine of their 10 games and returning three goals - with only international duty keeping the 25-year-old out of the Shrewsbury win.
A criticism of the attacking talent is not impacting the big games enough for Pompey, a stance backed up by him scoring just a single goal against the top six sides this season.
Cowley has no doubts about Curtis’ ability to perform for him when it counts, however, with the stakes now at their highest this season.
He said: ‘I think Ronan’s form has been excellent and he’s delivering at the moment.
‘These are the biggest games of our lives and I’ve loved his form, energy and intensity.
‘I think he’s been a real powerful player for us.
‘We’ve worked hard at that (his mentality) with him.
‘We want him to use the emotion.
‘Emotionally you want energy, enthusiasm and passion. Sometimes you have to channel it.
‘You have to use your emotion to help your performance and not to hinder it.
‘That’s what we’ve been working on with Ronan.’
Cowley believes there’s absolutely no question over Curtis’ fighting qualities nor his resilience, as he finds himself a target for opponents as one of Pompey’s key threats.
But the Blues head coach is also aware rivals will do absolutely anything they can to knock the former Derry City man out of his stride - and that’s something he needs to be wary of.
Cowley added: ‘Ronan is one of 11 siblings and the youngest, so he’s always had to fight.
‘That’s what the youngest has to do, particularly when there’s 11 of them.
‘I think he’s used to fighting and he’s got fighting qualities which we love.
‘We’re always trying to get him to fight with intelligence - and to find that very difficult balance.
‘He’s naturally going to be always kicked.
‘I can’t remember seeing a more robust attacker. The way he naturally puts his body on the line.
‘The opponents are going to try to stop him any way they can by unsettling him and put him off his game.
‘He knows that’s a compliment and the biggest compliment an opposing player can give you.
‘We’re seeing that as a positive and a way to fuel his energy and not to dampen his spirit.’
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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