Boss Andy Awford has pledged to keep ‘nurturing’ Nigel Atangana as the summer arrival jostles for a Pompey start tonight.
The former Hawks midfielder made an eye-catching Football League debut after climbing from the bench to face Exeter.
His wonderful pass set Jed Wallace free for the equaliser in the 1-1 draw at St James Park, but it was his all-round impact which had many raving.
Atangana is now pushing to fight his way into Awford’s line-up against Peterborough in the Capital One Cup tonight at Fratton Park (7.45pm).
But Pompey’s boss is wary of expecting too much too soon from the 24-year-old as he adjusts to the full-time game.
Awford said: ‘Nigel will have a big part to play this season, as does every player in the squad.
‘But you have got to understand it is a big step up for him and you have got to be careful of that and nurture him along.
‘He has done great. I didn’t expect him to come in and make a huge impact because he is making the step, and it is a big step from the Conference South into the Football League.
‘We will be careful with him to make sure we don’t ask too much, but he has settled in really well and impressed everybody.
‘He gives you energy, he gets everywhere, he doesn’t seem to sprint anywhere, he has that long stride. I am sure he is sprinting but he appears so easy on the eye with the way he moves.
‘The lad came on against Exeter and we were able to move Jed out wide – and in the end that is where the goal came from.
‘He is that box-to-box midfield player and still learning. We went through stuff with him yesterday morning and some video from the weekend and he is willing as well.’
Joining Atangana in attempting to win a start against the Posh tonight is fellow substitute Miles Storey.
The on-loan forward also impressed with his pace, directness and strong running against the Grecians, particularly down the left flank.
With changes likely, considering the heavy early-season schedule, he and Atangana will be firmly in the Pompey cup frame.
‘What we did from the bench fortunately worked on Saturday,’ added Awford.
‘I am sure, on other occasions, it won’t. But it did work and I was delighted with Nigel’s impact.
‘When you are asking players to come on you are asking them to make an impact and I thought he and Miles Storey did.
‘As did Ryan Bird, who only came on for a couple of minutes and was close to scoring as well.
‘So I think all three made an impact when they did their job from the bench.’