Pompey will look to get their promotion bid back on track this weekend as they welcome Newport County to Fratton Park. The game offers the perfect opportunity for them to bounce back from last Saturday’s 3-0 away defeat at Stevenage so they will look to take full advantage.
A couple of weeks ago this would have looked like a fairly easy game for Pompey against a Newport side who sat bottom of the Football League, but recent improvements have seen them rise off the bottom of League Two. They are still six points from safety with eight matches remaining so survival is by no means a given, but a couple of decent results – most recently a point against Luton in midweek – mean they have to be taken seriously tomorrow.
One to watch:
Sean Rigg scored for the Exiles against Luton on Tuesday, proving that he is till an able player at this level after moving to Wales in the summer. He moved from AFC Wimbledon after they were promoted from this division last season, with Rigg coming off the bench to score the goal putting them through to the play-off final where they defeated Plymouth Argyle.
County tend to play three at the back and try to keep a solid unit behind the ball for their matches, aiming to hit their opposition on the counter attack when the opportunity arises. However, much like the Blues, Newport had one of their centre-halves, Mark O’Brien, sent off in their last match so he will be suspended for tomorrow. The likely replacement for him will be Mickey Demetriou but I am not anticipating many other changes from the side which held Luton.
We’ve seen you before…:
Ryan Bird was not the greatest success during his time at Pompey, but he seems to have found his form since joining Newport this season. The striker will probably get a mixed reception as he was reasonably popular while at the Blues even though he didn’t end up having the impact that Guy Whittingham expected when he brought the striker in from Burnham. Dan Butler is another who is now plying his trade in South Wales, and the left-back has also found himself on the score sheet recently. The academy graduate is somebody who could well get get a friendly welcome back to his old stomping ground tomorrow.
Last week’s 3-0 thrashing by Stevenage put paid to a great run of results for Pompey which put them into the automatic promotion spots. The Blues are still in the top three by four points going into tomorrow’s match and will need to recover in the best fashion tomorrow. They will need to ensure they are not distracted by the recent speculation regarding the possible takeover of the club by Michael Eisner if they are to get a result.
The Stevenage match saw Paul Cook surprise everyone by switching to a 3-5-2 system, but after the result I would be very surprised if Pompey didn’t revert back to the manager’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation. Christian Burgess was sent off last week so will serve a one game suspension, meaning Tom Davies will partner Matt Clarke in defence. Kal Naismith and Kyle Bennett will be battling to recover from injury in time for the match, and I would not be surprised to see Bennett return to the starting eleven for Burgess, and I could also see Gary Roberts come in for Noel Hunt. Here is my predicted lineup:
I’m going to go for a 1-0 win for the Blues. This will probably be a fairly scrappy match as the Exiles tend to sit deep and not play in a too adventurous style. However, I have confidence that Pompey can get the job done, even if it might not be particularly easy on the eye.
Key player prediction:
If Kyle Bennett can make his comeback from injury I fancy him to continue his great form, but if not then Eoin Doyle could well score against Newport. Even though he has been out of luck in front of goal so far at Pompey, nobody can deny that he has been getting in the right positions and this could pay off tomorrow.