Pompey will once again look to recover from a disappointing home result with a win on the road when they travel to Newport County on Boxing Day. Having had nine days to recover from a goalless home draw with Hartlepool they will be pleased to take to the field once again against their Welsh opponents.
Newport County are currently propping up the Football League, sitting in 24th place in League Two. Their manager, Graham Westley, at one point this season expressed hopes that they would be mounting a promotion charge, but with just one win having come from their last five league matches and their last four league games being defeats, things haven’t really been going to plan so far.
One to watch:
County were seriously damaged in the summer by the departure of Medy Elito to Cambridge United, but have recruited a worthy replacement for the winger in the form of Sean Rigg. The winger won promotion with AFC Wimbledon last season so he has the required experience to help his new club escape relegation. Pompey will also need to keep an eye on Cardiff loanee, Rhys Healey, who is Newport’s top scorer with five league goals this season.
Newport are likely to line up in a traditional 4-4-2 formation for the visit of Portsmouth, and let’s just say they are not known for their flowing football. Having said that, there have been concerns raised about the state of the pitch at Rodney Parade so it is unlikely that either team will have any choice but to employ a direct style of play.
We’ve seen you before…:
The Exiles have two names in their ranks who will be familiar to Pompey fans, with Jack Compton and Dan Butler both now plying their trade in Wales. Compton spent part of a season with Pompey in League One but failed to hit it off with the Fratton faithful, whereas Butler came through the ranks at Pompey and was fairly popular before the left-back was released at the end of the 2014-15 season.
I’m starting to wonder if there will ever be one of these articles in which Pompey’s recent form isn’t described as ‘inconsistent’. Certainly, after a good away win at Grimsby, Pompey failed to push on and ended up with a goalless draw at home to Hartlepool. However, now is the time to right some wrongs and finally get started on the good run everybody says is just around the corner.
Paul Cook has come out and announced that due to the pitch at Rodney Parade, he will be making changes to both his team and his tactics for the Boxing Day game. This will almost certainly see Gary Roberts drop out of the side after a spell of indifferent form and may also open the door for a couple of other players. Personally, I think Cook will opt for a 4-4-2 formation with Conor Chaplin coming into the side to partner Michael Smith, and Kyle Bennett dropping out in favour of Kal Naismith. This is my predicted lineup:
Last time the blues travelled to Rodney Parade they won 1-0 thanks to a Matt Tubbs goal. I would not be surprised to see the same scoreline on Boxing Day, probably as part of a very scrappy game.
Man of the Match prediction:
I think the match could be one for the defenders, as the pitch is unlikely to allow for any spectacular pieces of skill or pinpoint passing. Matt Clarke is my tip for man of the match as the centre back is always dominant in the air and knows when it is best to clear the ball.
First goalscorer prediction:
Conor Chaplin could score his first goal in a while as I have a feeling the game will be won by a scrappy goal. Chapin is the kind of player who regularly finds himself in the perfect place to score a tap-in which could come in very useful on Boxing Day.