Guy Whittingham believes Sam Sodje is justifying the faith shown in him following his ‘eyebrow-raising’ Pompey arrival.
The central defender turned in a monumental performance against Hartlepool on Tuesday night, particularly in the second half, to help secure the Blues a goalless draw.
His immense man-of-the-match display also ensured Pompey ended a club record-equalling run of nine defeats in a row.
The 33-year-old had been recalled to the starting line-up for the Victoria Park visit as Whittingham wanted to rest Gabor Gyepes.
Now the player, who was without a club for eight months before joining Pompey last month, is in the frame to retain his place against Carlisle this weekend. And the caretaker boss is delighted with the impact the Nigerian international has had on his team so far.
He said: ‘Sodje was fantastic against Hartlepool.
‘I thought it was a bit unfair for him to get booked in the first half – he jumped early and is already in the air when people are backing into him.
‘He’s got a great leap on him and I thought he won his fair share of headers.
‘There might have been a few raised eyebrows when we signed him but we were confident he would help us out and we know what a good centre-half at this level he is.
‘His strength is in the air. He doesn’t look like the biggest of guys but he has a great leap on him.
‘Like I said, he has probably got too big a leap on him and referees think he is riding on the back of the centre-forward.
‘But he is actually up in the air before the centre-forward backs in.
‘He is one of the best headers of the ball in this club.
‘I think Ric (Ricardo Rocha) can head a ball, Gabor can also head a ball – and they are teaching Adam Webster how to head the ball which is good because he is our future.
‘Sam’s a good lad, always helping out and a real team player.’
The Hartlepool game was only Sodje’s third appearance for the Blues.
Yet, with Whittingham keen to rotate fellow defenders Gyepes and Rocha during a busy time in terms of fixtures, he has been given his opportunity.
At Victoria Park it was Sodje partnering Rocha in the heart of a defence as the Blues chalked up just their fourth clean sheet of the campaign.
It now remains to be seen who will retain their place in the side for the visit of Carlisle, with The News Sports Awards’ 2012 Pompey player of the year winner Gyepes itching to get back in.
Whittingham added: ‘I tried to rest Gabor a couple of weeks ago then Ricardo came off injured.
‘With the run-in we’ve got, with the amount of games and the amount of players we have to get through this with, we need as many fit players as we can.’