Portsmouth vs Stevenage Preview

By Jim Bonner
Last updated : 20 October 2014

Pompey take on Stevenage for a pivotal League Two match at Fratton Park tomorrow night with Andy Awford desperately looking for a change in fortunes.

Team News

James Dunne returns from suspension and should return to the squad to face his old team and Paul Robinson should also be fit to play after missing out but Jack Whatmough is still unavailable. Conor Chaplin signed a professional contract today and could be a surprise inclusion in the squad given his goalscoring form for the academy.

Stevenage striker Calvin Zola is out for six weeks with an ankle injury but new signing Josh Clarke will be hoping to be included in the squad.

The Match

There can be no understating how important this match is for Portsmouth given the context of the season. Failure to beat Stevenage tomorrow evening would mean that Guy Whittingham's team last season had a better start than Awford's this year and the 3-0 surrender at Bury on Saturday has seen a few more fans lose faith in the man that rescued the club from relegation last campaign.

Hopefully the manager will swallow his pride and ditch the wing back system which has gifted the opposition far too many chances in recent chances. They usually end up scoring and it's only then when Awford decides to change things but by then it's too late, especially as his team can't seem to hit the target at the moment.

It's time for Awford to get his players fired up and tell them to rip into Stevenage from the start. Far be it for me to tell him how to do his job but playing three up front and going direct from the start would send out a clear message to the opposition and the Fratton faithful who would surely respond to that.

If Awford is struggling for attacking options then giving Miles Storey more than ten minutes is something he can do. He can't be lacking in confidence any more than the other Pompey strikers.

Another option would be to give newly-promoted-professional Conor Chaplin some game time. He has scored 11 goals in 11 games for the academy and that includes two hat-tricks. What can be the harm in throwing him on if Pompey need a goal?

What can absolutely not happen tomorrow evening is for Pompey to start slowly and allow Stevenage to take the lead. Graham Westley is one of the masters of gamesmanship and he will have his side drilled to waste time and frustrate Pompey at any given opportunity. Of course, should his team fall behind then he won't be able to employ these cheap tactic (which have worked for Newport, Wycombe and Mansfield already this season).

Should Pompey win this then it go a long way to silencing the slowly growing "Awford out" brigade ahead of a tough trip to Shrewsbury on Saturday. Fail, and those voices will grow ever louder.

Predicted Starting Line-Ups

Pompey

GK: Paul JONES

RB: Alex WYNTER

CB: Paul ROBINSON

CB: Ben CHORLEY

LB: Nicky SHOREY

RM: Jed WALLACE

CM: James DUNNE

CM: Danny HOLLANDS

LM: Ricky HOLMES

CF: Ryan TAYLOR

CF: Michael DRENNAN

Stevenage

GK: Chris DAY

RB: Ronnie HENRY

CB: Jon ASHTON

CB: Dean WELLS

LB: Darius CHARLES

RM: Chris WHELPDALE

CM: Jamie McCALLISTER

CM: Dean PARRETT

LM: Tom PETT

CF: Chris BEARDSLEY

CF: Charlie LEE

Last Time: Portsmouth 0 Stevenage 0 (League One - 06/04/2013)

Virtually nothing happened in this tedious bore draw between two teams with little quality on the day.

My Prediction

It's difficult to second-guess Awford's formation and tactics but he may well go back to basics and play a 4-4-2. Stevenage are inconsistent and so hopefully Pompey can nick this one.

Portsmouth 1 Stevenage 0

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