Two lease of life for Pompey hitmen

Luke Varney celebrates his goal against Barnsley with creator Dave Kitson
Luke Varney celebrates his goal against Barnsley with creator Dave Kitson

A new era, a new managerial partnership.

And, of course, a new playing system.

What’s more, Guy Whittingham believes the Fratton Park changes have given Luke Varney a new lease of life.

The versatile forward has been employed as a central striker in the past two Pompey matches.

He has been asked to operate as part of a front two against both Barnsley and Ipswich.

It is a return to the conventional 4-4-2 formation supporters have long craved this season.

For Varney, the result has been a goal and two excellent personal displays.

Whether it be partnering Benjani or linking up with Dave Kitson, the ex-Derby man has shone in the role.

Joint-caretaker manager Whittingham admits Varney should have scored against Ipswich in the week.

Nonetheless, he has still been thoroughly impressed by the 29-year-old’s displays.

He said: ‘Luke is doing tremendously well.

‘He’s the type of player you want in your club, who will give his best and do well in whichever position that is.

‘But I think at the moment he has a new lease of life playing as one of the two up front. I think he’s enjoying it, too.

‘Luke’s a great lad and had another good game the other night, as did most of the players. You couldn’t pick anybody out who didn’t.

‘He’s one of those players we are fortunate to have who will give his all in any area he goes, whether it is wide in a front three, up as a two or wide left in a four.

‘He’s just got to do some more finishing but, obviously, wasn’t the only culprit against Ipswich.’

Portman Road also marked the return of Kitson.

The former Stoke striker hadn’t started a match since August 27 against Cardiff. Illness and injury took care of that.

However, he returned to the squad to impress with a cameo against Barnsley last week.

And when Benjani failed to recover from hamstring trouble, he was the obvious choice to fill in against Ipswich.

For Kitson, it was the opportunity to be part of a front two he has long hankered for.

He has previously spoken of his desire to play in such a system and his loathing of operating as a lone striker.

The 31-year-old did his chances of keeping his place in the side no harm in the 1-0 defeat.

And with Benjani struggling to be back in time for Doncaster, he is likely to once again get the nod on Saturday.

And Whittingham believes the current system of two up front is working.

Whittingham added: ‘I was very pleased with Kitson’s performance.

‘Obviously, he got a little bit tired towards the end and we felt we would make changes anyway.

‘But he did extremely well up until that point.

‘At the moment, we think a front two is working.

‘We gave them a job to do as well against Ipswich, which was to come off the back of Jimmy Bullard as we knew he’s a good passer for them and part of what they do.

‘I think Kits covered that side of the game as well.

‘When you are a striker, of course you enjoy playing two up front.

‘But we will see how he goes and see how the future lies as regards to the decision of how we play.’