Barker sees benefits of Connolly impact role

David Connolly. Picture: Joe Pepler
David Connolly. Picture: Joe Pepler

Richie Barker is weighing up if David Connolly will best serve Pompey primarily as an impact player at present.

The veteran striker climbed off the bench against Mansfield last weekend to inspire a previously lacklustre Blues to a 1-1 draw.

Operating in a role behind the forward line, it was a sparkling entrance which delivered a timely reminder of what the former international striker can offer having slipped out of the reckoning of late.

There are certainly plenty of attacking options with Ryan Taylor, Jake Jervis, Patrick Agyemang and Ryan Bird now competing with Connolly for a spot.

Barker recognised the outstanding impact of the 36-year-old against the Stags, praising his game-changing contribution.

Connolly told The News yesterday of his desire to stay at the club and fight for a starting spot.

But with a trip to Morecambe lying in wait tomorrow, Pompey’s manager is considering when to again keep him on the bench.

Barker said: ‘I thought David Connolly was excellent against Mansfield and is a calming influence. He is clever.

‘I thought he and Nicky Shorey looked like they were on the same wavelength as you would imagine from two players who had played in the Premier League.

‘It was a fantastic ball through to Ryan (Taylor), a good touch and a good finish for our goal.

‘David was a link-up player. We played with two slightly deeper midfielders and asked him to be the link-up and I actually thought he did it really well.

‘Even at this level he is still bright and clever, his touch is fantastic and his awareness was excellent.

‘If you had watched the last half-an-hour of that game and had to pick two players who had played in the Premier League you would pick David and Nicky.

‘In terms of starting, at the moment we probably just need a bit of legs.

‘Jake and Ryan give us that but we have got options now. We have got the cleverness and goals of David.

‘We’ve got the legs of Jake and Ryan and obviously the power, strength and touch of Patrick and Ryan Bird.’

Pompey head to a Morecambe side riding impressively high in ninth place having been widely tipped for relegation.

Jim Bentley’s team, however, haven’t won since Boxing Day – a run of four matches without victory.

The Blues themselves have triumphed just once in their last 14 matches, although they have shown steady progress since the arrival of Barker.

Unquestionably they are tighter defensively, conceding seven goals in his seven matches in charge, including three clean sheets.

And the ex-Crawley manager has also been delighted with the improvement of fitness levels among his squad.

He added: ‘How we finished against Mansfield shows we are getting fitter, we are getting stronger and more athletic.

‘We were both by far the stronger and most athletic team out there in the last 30 minutes.

‘We are starting to see that, with the training we are doing and work we are doing, there are improvements.’