Smith eyes Pompey partnership with Chaplin

Michael Smith welcomed the potential for a Pompey strike partnership with Conor Chaplin and insisted: We have the armoury to hurt any team in League Two.

Saturday, 17th December 2016, 6:00 am
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 10:06 am
Michael Smith, left, and Conor Chaplin Picture: Joe Pepler

Smith is expected to lead the line by himself for today’s visit of Hartlepool to Fratton Park (3pm).

It is a right the 25-year-old striker has earned, with three goals in his past four outings, after fighting his way back into boss Paul Cook’s starting line-up in place of Chaplin.

The boss, though, revealed in yesterday’s The News his plans to change things up over the busy festive period.

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That has left open the prospect of pairing up the Blues’ two main strikers for the first time this season.

And for Smith, it is a little-and-large partnership he feels could thrive – if selected.

He said: ‘Of course I would like to play alongside Conor – he is a cracking little player so any team he plays in they are going to benefit.

‘If we do play the two of us up there then that will definitely benefit the team.

‘I will do whatever the manager wants – that’s what I have got to go with anyway!

‘I have played in twos or up there by myself and I have enjoyed both.

‘But whoever plays, we have got more than enough in our armoury to go up against anyone in our league.

‘Scoring goals has never been a problem for the team.

‘And we are looking to just carry that on.’

Cook has this season stuck with his tried-and-tested 4-2-3-1 system, employing a lone front man for all 20 of the Blues’ League Two games to date.

A healthy return of 33 goals places Pompey both fourth in the table and in the list of top scorers.

For Smith, that is great credit to the preferred attacking-midfield trio of Gary Roberts, Carl Baker and Kyle Bennett.

Indeed, Roberts (seven) and Baker (six) top the list of the Blues’ top marksmen in the league.

And with the likes of Milan Lalkovic and last Saturday’s Grimsby match-winner Kal Naismith ready to be called upon from the bench, the strength in depth at Pompey’s disposal is clear for all to see.

Smith said: ‘It’s great to play in front of them.

‘You’ve got the three – Roberts, Baker and Bennett – who have been playing more regularly.

‘And then there’s Kal Naismith and Milan Lalkovic.

‘The strength in depth the gaffer has brought in is really high and we see that every day on the training pitch.

‘We saw Kal do it again last Saturday – the quality is there.’

Chaplin, Noel Hunt and the injured Curtis Main, meanwhile, are all pushing each other and Smith for the right to lead the line – until Cook decides otherwise.

‘You’ve got to be at it all of the time,’ added Smith.

‘Even when we are playing 11 v 11 in training, if the other strikers are scoring and doing well – that only pushes you on to better yourself.’