Portsmouth vs Gillingham match preview

Last updated : 07 January 2005 By Keith Allman
It's the first time that we've ever met Gillingham in the FA Cup, and there's no doubting that there's certainly a good opportunity for us to progress to the fourth round. I use the word "opportunity" carefully; if we play as well as we can we should tonk them, it's as simple as that. They're 22nd in "The Championship", although having said that under new manager Stan Ternent their form has improved - witness recent draws against high flying Sunderland and Reading. Even so, we should thrash them. Shouldn't we?

Well, no Pompey fan has ever had reason to be confident in cup competitions. Watford, Leyton Orient, Colchester, Peterborough - all sides we should've beaten in the cups and crashed out to in recent years. The fact is that we're favourites, whilst Gillingham travel here with no pressure and can enjoy a chance to take a Premiership scalp. Alright, so it doesn't mean as much as winning at Manchester United, but beating a team a league above would still be a confidence booster. We need to be professional, like we were in the League Cup up until Vicarage Road. Potentially tricky ties against the likes of Cardiff and Leeds were brushed aside in competent displays, without ever truly over doing it and without sustaining injury. That has got to be our blueprint.

It's hard to predict exactly what team Velimir will put out. Judging by how he treated the Carling Cup, it'll be a vaguely decent team but focusing on those on the fringes. I'd expect Ashdown, Hughes, and especially the recovering Unsworth to take their places in the team. There's a rumour LuaLua might be fit in time but personally I'd rather not risk him. We saw earlier in the season how he insisted on playing on an injury, just making it worse in the progress - against lumbering clumsy lower league centre backs, the chance of getting savaged is increased ten fold.

Quite simply, the most important thing about tomorrow is winning; a nice performance would be pleasant, but getting through is the big issue. No-one wants to watch Gary Lineker smirking on Match of the Day about a giant killing, followed by scenes of fans streaming out of Fratton Park. And this is the same Gillingham who beat Charlton last season and took then high-flying Leeds to a replay a couple of years back. Underestimate them at our peril, and I have no reason to doubt that Velimir won't afford them the same respect as the likes of Chelsea or Arsenal, but we have to go out and put our stamp on this game. Against the two I just mentioned we sat back and coped with them, rather than forcing them to cope with us. At home in the cup to a team in the division below, we've GOT to take the lead. Play as we're capable of, and we'll wrap it up easy.

What we don't need is a replay.