Bolton vs Portsmouth Preview

Last updated : 23 September 2005 By Keith Allman
Last season Pompey travelled to Bolton in disarray. Redknapp had just left, Zajec was in temporary charge and we were relegation favourites. Players supposedly wanted to leave, we were going to get tonked by an in-form side and it was just a case of how many times we gave in to Bolton hoofing a long ball over the top/using a set piece. Fast forward to present day and once again we head to the Reebok supposedly knee deep in trouble; Perrin has replaced Souness as the manager most likely to be sacked and apparently if he doesn't get some sort of result this weekend then he can expect his P45 on Monday morning. Of course, we're still one of the favourites to get relegated and players supposedly still want to leave left, right and centre.

Last season we proved a point to all the doubters courtesy of a 1-0 win, and at the time Sam Allardyce admitted that we had "out-Boltoned" his team. I think it's fair to say we'll all take a dose of the same again on Saturday, especially since if we were to grab an unlikely second away win of the season it would then be seven points from nine, and Alain would even be a surprise contender for manager of the month (not that he'd get it and not that we'd want the curse of it anyway).

The rumours say that we need a result or it's managerial change all over again. As far as I'm concerned that sounds like complete bollocks and the only thing I want to see is an improved performance from Tuesday. Best rephrase that; an improved performance would not be very difficult. But at least a performance where we compete, make them work for any result they get and make ourselves a threat. In our last away match at Everton we were fantastic and we're usually at our best when written off. So why not again tomorrow? All I care about is getting the pride back (especially in front of an audience on Sky Sports) and any points gained will be a pleasant bonus rather than a neccessity. Would Milan sack his manager if we lost 1-0 to a dodgy penalty in the 91st minute? I doubt it as long as we've fought and played like a Premier League team should.

One spot of bother is a couple of injuries we've picked up. Primus and Cissé are still out whilst Vukic will miss three weeks of the season with an ankle problem. LuaLua is the biggest issue - he'll need a late fitness test on his shoulder and has also had flu this week. If he's out then it could mean a complete re-jig of the front line; Silva up on his own? Silva and Karadas, who looked ok as a partnership in the week? Mbesuma to get a chance on the bench, or maybe Todorov?

Hopefully Robert, Viafara, O'Brien and (if he plays) Mbesuma can show the Reebok crowd a little of what they've been missing. As you no doubt know all four could easily have ended up at Bolton, especially Robert who seemed destined to sign a deal until - just for once - Pompey gazumped someone else's transfer deal at the 11th hour. A pleasant change from the way things normally go for us with Charlton's "scouting network" consist of stealing any contracts that we put on the table.

I know the media have made their minds up but I think this is going to be a tough one to call. Any result is obtainable as Bolton haven't quite looked like a force yet this season and hopefully our players have stung pride and want to prove themselves right. Like an injured animal, Bolton will think we're there for the picking but suddenly we'll jump off and bite their face off. Well that's the plan anyway. If the players are still petrified from Tuesday and get thumped then it has a lot more long term consequences for the season as a whole if we struggle over every setback. Hopefully a good performance and a good result can put right a few wrongs and shut up the "Perrin has lost the dressing room" stories from "experts" like Mick Quinn for another week.