Michael Smith is demonstrating the consistency required to make himself a League Two handful.
That is the verdict of Leam Richardson as the striker continues his recent good form.
This year, for whatever reason, he has been thrown from pillar to postLeam Richardson
Smith marked a third successive start by bagging the only goal of the game against Carlisle on Saturday.
He pounced in the 57th minute to net from a tight angle after keeper Mark Gillespie had failed to hold Kyle Bennett’s shot.
It was a second goal in 11 matches since joining the Blues on loan from Swindon at the start of February.
Steadily the 24-year-old is finding his feet following a disappointing campaign with the Robins and also a below-par loan spell at Barnsley.
And Richardson has been impressed with such encouraging recent displays.
He said: ‘With Michael it is consistency in games and consistency in playing.
‘He’s still a young lad and if you saw him last year playing 90-plus minutes every single week you would see the momentum he got.
‘This year, for whatever reason, he has been thrown from pillar to post.
‘Whether he is going to get bought by somebody, whether Swindon want to play him, whether it is Barnsley changing manager – but he has come here and settled and hopefully getting the games he wants and the minutes he can perform in.
‘I saw him a lot last year, had him at Accrington and watched him on loan at Wimbledon the other season, when he has consistency he is a very good footballer and I think you will see more of that.
‘You give the lads a message they must hit the levels we know they can and on Saturday Michael did really well, as did every player who entered the pitch.
‘It’s fitness, it’s levels of consistency and it’s belief in terms of you believe the manager wants to pick you and play you.
‘He is getting a relationship with Gary Roberts as well, which is good for the team and thankfully his hard work has paid off by getting the goal against Carlisle.’
Smith has displaced Marc McNulty as the recognised striker in Paul Cook’s starting line-up.
Instead Pompey’s leading scorer was substitute, appearing in the 89th minute for Adam McGurk.
McNulty, on loan from Sheffield United, has netted 11 times in 27 appearances as his encouraging Fratton Park spell continues.
For the moment, though, he finds himself out of the team, with Smith operating as the lone striker and Roberts playing in the hole behind.
And Richardson admitted the current starting absence of McNulty is unfortunate on the Scottish forward.
He added: ‘In Michael and Marc we have two very, very good strikers, very good finishers.
‘As you have seen over the past few weeks and months, we are lucky at the minute to have the strikers at the club we have.
‘McNulty is certainly unlucky not to be in the team at present.
‘His minutes per goal is very good as is Conor Chaplin’s.
‘We are blessed at the minute.’
Smith’s 93-day loan from Swindon is scheduled to end before the final match of the season against Northampton.