Cotterill backs Benjani goals to flow

Benjani celebrates his goal against Peterborough, with Liam Lawrence in hot pursuit

Benjani celebrates his goal against Peterborough, with Liam Lawrence in hot pursuit

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Pompey fans waited three years, eight months and nine days to savour the moment once more.

Now Steve Cotterill is backing Benjani to be a regular goal contributor.

Not since January 19, 2008, had the veteran striker netted for the Blues.

That came courtesy of a hat-trick in a 3-1 triumph over Derby at Fratton Park.

A mere 12 days later he had gone – Manchester City staging a transfer window deadline swoop for his services.

Yet the former Zimbabwe international striker rolled back the years on Tuesday night against Peterborough.

In the 54th minute, he turned home Erik Huseklepp’s cross from the right to level against Posh.

It was Benjani’s first goal after seven matches of his second Pompey coming.

Ultimately, Huseklepp’s own goal in stoppage time ensured this was to be no happy occasion, though.

Nonetheless, the folk hero has opened his Pompey goal account once again.

For Steve Cotterill, the free agent is steadily regaining his fitness and form.

And he believes Benjani is now firmly up and running, ready to start plundering the goals on a regular basis.

He said: ‘Benji is getting there all the time.

‘What you have got to bear in mind is he hasn’t had that many games. It can take half-a-dozen games for him to get his sharpness back.

‘I thought Benji at West Ham was good, whereas at Hull he wasn’t so good, but then neither were the team.

‘But there is a definite improvement in him over the last month for me.

‘And, hopefully, that goal against Peterborough will get him up and running now.

‘I only saw the old Benjani a couple of times during his previous spell here, I didn’t actually work with him.

‘He is a fantastic lad, which is what everybody said about him.

‘He’s a top, top lad and it only adds to the dressing room.

‘These games – and that goal – will only help him.

‘We do need to get a bit more supply into him and give him sometimes better balls as opposed to it being a fight ball.

‘But one thing’s for sure, if it’s a fight ball, Benji will fight for it.’

Benjani netted 19 times in 77 appearances during his first Fratton Park spell.

Yet it was only during his third season when he began to add plenty of goals to his game.

He scored 12 times in 27 appearances during the 2007-08 campaign.

That form earned him a January 2008 switch to Sven-Goran Eriksson’s big-spending Manchester City.

The 33-year-old later also featured for Sunderland and Blackburn but struggled for regular first-team football.

Now he’s back to his spiritual home among fans who still adore him.

Blues supporters have not forgotten his crucial impact in that memorable Great Escape campaign.

Some three-and-a-half years on, it is clear the Benjani of old is still alive and kicking. That trademark energy, willingness to run and smile thankfully remain.

And Cotterill believes his striker is an even better player this time around at Fratton Park.

He added: ‘Benji’s work-rate is fantastic. It probably isn’t as good as it was last time around, but he is more experienced and a better player now.

‘Whereas he probably chased everything last time, he now knows he doesn’t always need to.

‘He’s a bit wiser on the ones he can chase and the ones he is going to realistically get.’