Exeter vs Portsmouth Preview
By Jim Bonner
Updated Monday, 29th February 2016
Pompey face the first of three straight away games in a week.
Pompey will have to beat a team that already has two victories over them this season tomorrow if they want to keep their push for promotion on track.
Gary Roberts, Adam McGurk and Michael Smith all missed Saturday's win over Cambridge due to injury and are set to miss out again. Paul Cook may make one or two changes to his side with two more games coming in the next week.
Jayden Stockley is poised to play against the club he was loaned to earlier in the season but Paul Tisdale is unlikely to tinker with his side too much after a first win in five at Stevenage last time out.
Tomorrow's match is the first of three consecutive away games in the space of seven days with a trip to Stevenage on Saturday and then a pivotal game at Accrington the following Tuesday.
It's a tough schedule but there isn't much room for error given how tight the top of the League Two table is and if Pompey can keep winning then those faint hopes of automatic promotion become ever stronger.
Exeter are a strange side. They play some excellent football for their level and are capable of beating the best teams in the division and yet have a soft underbelly that has been the main cause of their inconsistency and lack of a promotion challenge themselves.
Therefore, if Pompey could reproduce their gritty showing that paid dividends on Saturday then that would surely be more effective than trying to outplay the Grecians on their own turf, especially as Paul Cook's men haven't won away from home in over two months and have already suffered two defeats at the hands of tomorrow's opposition this season.
As for the team Cook picks tomorrow, it's going to be similar to the side that won on Saturday although expect Gareth Evans to come in and perhaps one or two of the defensive players to be given a rest too.
Whoever plays at the back will have to silence Jayden Stockley who has an excellent scoring record since making the loan move to Devon. On a personal note I think Cook made a mistake in letting him go. He's good in the air and can link play up well and thus it wouldn't surprise me if he scored tomorrow, especially given how poor Pompey's defending has been from set-pieces recently.
This will be a difficult match but if Pompey are to keep up with the pacesetters in League Two then this is a game they should be winning.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: Bobby OLEJNIK
RB: Christian RIBIERO
CB: Troy BROWN
CB: Jordan MOORE-TAYLOR
LB: Craig WOODMAN
DM: David NOBLE
DM: Ryan HARLEY
RM: David WHEELER
AM: Alex NICHOLLS
LM: Lee HOLMES
CF: Jayden STOCKLEY
GK: Ryan FULTON
RB: Ben DAVIES
CB: Christian BURGESS
CB: Adam WEBSTER
LB: Enda STEVENS
RM: Gareth EVANS
CM: Michael DOYLE
CM: Danny HOLLANDS
LM: Kyle BENNETT
CF: Marc McNULTY
CF: Conor CHAPLIN
Last Time: Exeter City 2 Portsmouth 0 (Johnstone's Paint Trophy - 01/09/2015)
A Ryan Harley penalty and a late strike from Alex Nicholls in the second half saw a very young and inexperienced Pompey team defeated but not disgraced in a competition that Paul Cook rightly didn't prioritise.
It's ironic that tomorrow is likely to see a passing side that plays 4-2-3-1 come up against a more dogged opposition with the roles reversed as Pompey will hopefully be the physical side for a change. Exeter should raise their game, though, and this looks like being another draw.
Exeter City 1 Portsmouth 1
|29 Feb 2016|
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|28 Feb 2016|
|Back To Winning Ways|
|26 Feb 2016|
|Portsmouth vs Cambridge United Preview|
|25 Feb 2016|
|The Opposition View: Cambridge United|
|24 Feb 2016|
|Dire Pompey Humbled At The Hive|
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|Barnet vs Portsmouth Preview|
|22 Feb 2016|
|The Opposition View: Barnet|