The story of how ruthless Portsmouth boss axed striker after incredible goalscoring feat

Danny Cowley has already made some tough calls as Pompey boss.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:20 pm

But, however long his Fratton tenure is, it’s unlikely any will be harder to deliver than dropping your striker when he’s scored an outrageous 13 goals in two games!

Yet, that’s what the Blues head coach did when he was emerging as one of the non-league game’s bright, young things when in charge of Concord Rangers.

Back in the 2012-13 season, Cowley was then operating in the Isthmian League - in the seventh tier of the English game - when an intense period of fixtures brought on by the club’s success was tackled with some squad rotation.

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That process was made all the more difficult when striker Jason Hallett smashed in a double hat-trick in an 8-2 romp over Takeley in front of a crowd of 76 people.

Undeterred, Cowley took his goal machine out of the forward for a replacement, Tony Stokes, who grabbed a hat-trick against Metropolitan Police the following weekend in a 5-1 success.

Ever a man for the process, the 42-year-old then axed Stokes for Hallett who hammered in seven goals against Redbridge in a 9-0 thrashing - and was promptly dropped again!

Danny Cowley

Cowley’s decisions made waves which brought some high-profile attention, but it offers an insight into how the new man at the helm isn’t afraid to make the tough calls he believes will benefit his side.

‘At that time we were in the seventh tier of English football and it actually made the BBC,’ Cowley said as he looked back on the bizarre sequence.

‘I remember having to explain about the conversation I had with Jason Hallett in an interview.

‘Rhino we used to call him, he was a really good kid. Well that year he played in the play-off final for us which got us promoted.

‘I think I did well to keep him on board, because it wasn’t an easy conversation to have with your centre forward who’d scored 13 goals in two games and you keep dropping him!’

There seems little chance of Cowley facing the kind of events he did nine years ago again, when at the club he went on to gain three promotions and win six cups with.

But Pompey has already given the Londoner an unprecedented scenario in his three weeks at the helm, after going into the past two games without a senior striker to call upon.

John Marquis completes his three-game ban as Burton Albion come to Fratton Park this Saturday, with Ronan Curtis leading the line in the past two games.

As with his ruthless striker calls at Concord, Cowley remains unfazed about the challenges presented.

He added: ‘This is my 14th season. I can never remember not going into a game with a striker - and there’s been a lot of games!

‘Moaning about things like that never does anyone any good - it’s about finding the best solutions.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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