Pompey vs Middlesbrough Preview

Last updated : 29 January 2007 By Jim Bonner
After being knocked out of the cup by United on Saturday all that is left to win now is the Premiership. Now unless Chelsea, Man United, Arsenal and Liverpool all get done for match fixing then we're not going to win the league. However, there's still at least one UEFA Cup place to play for and we need to get back on track having not won a league game since Boxing Day.

Middlesbrough normally would not be the ideal opposition for us at this moment in time. They are undefeated in 2007, scored 18 goals since the turn of the year (Yakubu getting 5 of them) and are generally a far cry from the side we caned 4-0 at the Riverside right back in August last year.

However, like Charlton hold the hoodoo sign over us, we hold that same sign over Middlesbrough. Boro are yet to beat us in the Premiership and have lost all three games at Fratton Park since our promotion to the big league. So despite the recent form of Gareth Southgate's side, if the "bogey team" curse is still lingering above Fratton Park from two Saturdays ago then we have this one in the bag!

Boro will bring back George Boateng into the side but Mark Viduka; who has also been firing on all cylinders, looks to miss out with a hamstring injury. All eyes will no doubt be on Yakubu tomorrow but Stewart Downing has finally found some form and Boro's back line looks a lot stronger with Jonathan Woodgate in it.

'Arry will bring back Djimi Traore at left back with Pamarot still not quite there yet. Sean Davis is also injured so it's possible that Niko Kranjcar could fill the void or Gary O'Neil will move to the centre and Lauren will play right midfield.

Again, Redknapp has to choose which two strikers to start out of Cole, kanu and Benjani. I personally believe that Benjani has to start because he gives us that injection of pace up front and service from the wings that Kanu and Cole lack. There's also a chance that Lomana LuaLua could be fit enough for the bench, but don't count on it.

Whatever team Harry picks, we need to win this game. Failure to do so would put a massive dent in our hopes for UEFA Cup football next season. It will be a tough game but because of the way Middlesbrough play I can also see this being an open, entertaining match.

I'd certainly welcome a clean sheet too as we haven't kept one since Everton came down here last month but keeping out the likes of Yakubu and Downing will be difficult. I'm just hoping that the Boro bogey hits them once again and we can finally take our Premiership points tally to 40.

On a final note, as fans we should remember to back the team this time, and not focus all of our verbal attention on any former players of ours, especially when they don't really deserve it. The 12th man was lacking during our last home game, so we need to get back to making Fratton Park intimidating for the opposition and galvanising for our own boys.

Play Up Pompey!

Premiership Past: Pompey vs Middlesbrough

03/04: Pompey 5 Middlesbrough 1

The row between Harry & Jim and Milan Mandaric overshadowed this game a bit but the result was one to remember on the last day of a very successful debut campaign. Yakubu hit his now current employers for four whilst Teddy Sheringham put the icing on a short, but sweet Pompey career with a fifth. Bolo Zenden scored for the visitors amongst the blitz they recieved.

04/05: Pompey 2 Middlesbrough 1

This game came during the massive slump of Velimir Zajec's tenure at the club. Malcolm Christie gave the visitors the lead after a Chalkias spill but Matt Taylor restored parity with a quality strike minutes before half time. Pompey then won the game in the second half with a scrappy Yakubu goal.

05/06: Pompey 1 Middlesbrough 0

A single Gary O'Neil strike in the second half settled a very tense affair at Fratton Park. David Wheater almost broke the hearts of the Fratton Faithful after toe-poking a shot wide in the dying seconds but Pompey held on for a crucial three points in the Great Escape run.

Pundit Watch

Lawro: Home Win (2-0)