The Blues go into their match against Luton tomorrow on the back of two away trips over the Christmas period. Matches against Newport County and Yeovil Town resulted in a win and a draw respectively for Paul Cook’s side, which will set them up well for their promotion six-pointer against the Hatters.
The Hatters are currently just one point behind Pompey and sit in fifth place. They have had a mixed Christmas period, having lost against Colchester on Boxing Day but recovered to beat Barnet 3-1 yesterday. However, with two of their three Christmas games being at Kenilworth Road they will surely feel that at least a point is required at Fratton Park for the period to be considered a success.
One to watch:
Luton have had two standout players so far this season, namely Cameron McGeehan and Danny Hylton. McGeehan plays as an advanced midfielder and is a vital component of Nathan Jones’ squad, as shown by his ten goals from midfield so far. Hylton, by comparison, plays as the main striker for Luton and had eleven goals to his name. He is known as ‘the man in the mask’ for his protective headgear and scored against the Blues at Kenilworth Road.
The visitors are likely to set up with a 4-3-3 formation with the wingers tucking inside and the full-backs pushing on so it will be almost like they are playing with three conventional strikers. In the midfield, Glen Rea and Jonathan Smith play a holding role, allowing McGeehan to push forward and support the strikers. Luton have so far played a similar short passing style to Pompey, but much like the Blues, in the last game they were forced to switch to a more direct style to achieve success.
We’ve seen you before…:
The only Pompey connection currently on the books at Luton is Dan Potts, who spent a month on loan at the Blues from West Ham in 2013. The left-back was neither popular nor unpopular at Fratton Park as he only featured in six games during his stay, but he is unlikely to feature tomorrow as he limped out of action in the first half of Luton’s victory over Barnet yesterday.
Pompey will be unbeaten in five matches if they can avoid defeat tomorrow, but are without a win in their last two home matches. A goalless draw with Hartlepool in their most recent home match and a loss to Stevenage have increased the pressure on Paul Cook’s side as they must seek to improve their home form and bring it up to promotion standard.
Having played a 4-2-3-1 formation for almost his whole time since joining Pompey, Cook has played two different systems in the last two matches. Against Newport he opted for a traditional 4-4-2 system with a direct style, whereas he changed to a 4-3-3 formation against Yeovil two nights ago. I feel he is likely to line up with a 4-4-2 system against the Hatters, with Noel Hunt and Michael Smith leading the line. The main talking point is whether Gary Roberts will be recalled to the squad, having sat out the last two matches. Personally I think he is likely to have to settle for a place on the bench as he continues to recharge his batteries. Jamal Lowe is also available for the match for the first time since joining from Hampton & Richmond Borough, but he is unlikely to be named in the squad and is more likely to turn out for Hampton & Richmond for the final time instead. Here is my predicted lineup:
The match will surely be a hard-fought one and will probably be decided by one goal. It may be no more than wishful thinking, but I am predicting a 2-1 win for Pompey, coming from behind. The game will be a tight affair and will either showcase some brilliant football from both teams or be very scrappy.
Man of the Match prediction:
Since joining the club Noel Hunt has just one goal to his name, that coming against Mansfield in the 4-0 win at Fratton Park. That may be about to change, however, as I can see the Irishman putting in a great performance tomorrow. He has benefited in recent matches from playing alongside Michael Smith and I think that could continue tomorrow.
First goalscorer prediction:
As I said before, I am predicting Luton to go 1-0 up early in the game, and that Danny Hylton will be the one to score it. The signing from Oxford United is a great finisher and regularly finds himself in the right place to capitalise on opposition mistakes. That could well be the case tomorrow and the Christian Burgess and Matt Clarke will need to keep an eye on ‘the man in the mask’ at all times.