Why Portsmouth striker Ellis Harrison will need extended run in starting XI if he is to replicate best Bristol Rovers form
For Pompey to get the best out of Ellis Harrison, the striker arguably needs a run in the team for the first time in his Blues career.
An extraordinary thing to say given that this is the forward’s third season at Fratton Park.
But the stats show that regular game time and starts have been hard to come by for the 27-year-old.
After scoring a midweek hat-trick against AFC Wimbledon in the Papa John’s Trophy, Harrison has given head coach Danny Cowley plenty to ponder ahead of Saturday’s trip to MK Dons.
The Blues have scored only four goals across their opening five league games to date this season – their lowest total across the same number of matches since the 2016-17 League Two campaign.
And there’s no getting away from the fact that they desperately need someone to consistently find the back of the net.
Harrison’s three-goal salvo now sees him sit top of the Pompey goal charts this term, with team-mates Lee Brown, Ryan Tunnicliffe, John Marquis, Reeco Hackett-Fairchild and Marcus Harness all registering one apiece so far.
But the former Bristol Rovers front man’s most recent performance doesn’t guarantee goals moving forward unless he’s given the opportunity to start matches for the Blues – something he’s found hard to achieve to date.
Since joining from Ipswich more than two years ago in the summer of 2019, the striker has started only 28 League One matches, with 26 appearances coming as a substitute.
That, coinciding with injury issues during his time at Fratton Park, has no doubt seriously impacted his goalscoring output.
Indeed, Harrison has netted just nine league goals throughout his Pompey spell to date.
When examining the entirety of his career, Harrison has proved he can score goals in the third tier.
Across the 2017-18 campaign, the front man scored 14 times in all competitions for Darrell Clarke’s Bristol Rovers, including a brace in a 6-0 thumping of Northampton.
Twelve of those game in the league – where Harrison happened to make 41 Gas starts.
His form that season prompted Ipswich to sign him for their 2018-19 Championship campaign.
But a lack of starts for the Tractor Boys affected him on the pitch. Seven of his 16 appearances that term came from the bench, which resulted in him netting a solitary league goal.
Prior to his 2017-18 rise to prominence, only one other season saw Harrison register a 10-plus goal return.
That came during Rovers’ 2014-15 National League season.
Half of his 14 league goals that term came after being introduced to the action as a substitute.
The other seven came at the tail end of the season, when Harrison established himself as a regular in the side.
Indeed, the then 21-year-old scored in five consecutive games as Bristol Rovers won promotion back to the Football League via the play-offs.
Since those Memorial Stadium heydays, though, Harrison has struggled to establish himself as a regular at Ipswich and now Pompey.
But if the Blues are to get the best out of him, then perhaps a regular spot on the team sheet could be a good starting point.