As we head to Fratton Park to hear those famous Pompey chimes (and to see that weird fella with blue dreadlocks that the camera’s focus in on every time they’re on TV) I cast my beady eye on the best punts from the myriad of markets available to the discerning gambler.
After our uplifting week at the UniBol that alas yielded only two points when six could and maybe should have been forthcoming, we travel to a Portsmouth side who are fresh from a 4-0 battering at the hands of their most hated rivals in the EFL Cup and lie in 20th place, which in this unfortunately reduced league is just one place above the three team relegation zone. Despite having played two games less than many of the sides in the league, Kenny Jackett’s troops have mustered a meagre 6 points from 7 games. They are, however, unbeaten at home after an early 2-0 win over Tranmere and high scoring draws with Coventry City and Burton Albion.
Two EFL Cup wins, away at QPR and a resounding 3-0 home victory over an admittedly weakened Birmingham City side show that they have potential and two home EFL Trophy wins further enhance that feeling.
Our away form has been nothing but an abomination, obviously with mitigating circumstances that I don’t need to spell out to you. One goal all season, scored by our barnstorming Belgian Thibaud Verlinden in our last away game, was the first time the net had rippled at the right end since our 2-1 away win at QPR all the way back on the 30th March.
A combined away aggregate score of 1-30 in the 7 away fixtures following that win does not inspire a huge amount of confidence that we can take something away from our visit to the South coast.
However, if I once again don my flat cap of positivity, our confidence must be restored somewhat by our performances over the past week. To match and arguably better a side in Oxford United that went on to thrash Lincoln City in their backyard 6-0 in the very next game and then dismantled West Ham 4-0 at the Kassam Stadium is encouraging.
To be seconds away from turning over, in Sunderland, undoubtedly the biggest club in the division will only further inspire our hastily-put-together bunch that they can indeed compete week-in, week-out in this league now.
For those eternal optimists, our beloved Bolton are a hugely tempting 33/1 to win this game with both teams scoring.
2-1 is the same price and backing this covers other mildly realistic scores such as 3-1 or 3-2 to us, although if you truly believe we will score three goals away from home for the first time since the 4-0 win at Gillingham on the 14th March 2017, then we are a huge 150/1 to win 3-1 and 100/1 to win 3-2.
As for goalscorers, young Dennis Politic continues to get some great shots away, coming a whisker away from opening the scoring against Sunderland when his first half effort came back off the inside of the post.
He is 6/1 to score anytime at Fratton Park and 18/1 to score the first goal of the game. The 6/1 at anytime offers good value for a player who looks to shoot often and with accuracy usually. It’s just getting him into those positions which is the key. Skybet don’t currently offer any odds on Daryl Murphy, understandable as he was confirmed as out for at least another three weeks by Hill as recently as Monday’s press conference. However, as he has travelled with the squad it may be worth searching him out nearer the game for a last goalscorer bet perhaps, if he makes the bench.
Looking at the game after weighing up our current form, away form and previous trips when in our Premier League days, I feel like a draw would be an excellent result. The Pompey fans were superb and vocal in their backing even at 4-0 down to their mortal enemies on Tuesday night. This is certainly a game their faithful will expect to win though and the longer we can keep them at bay, the more restless and anxious the natives will get, which will no doubt translate onto the pitch.
23 year-old forward Ronan Curtis has scored in his last two home league starts for Portsmouth and his confidence should be high after making his first start for Republic of Ireland in their 3-1 friendly win over Bulgaria just over two weeks ago.
He is 7/2 to bag the first goal of the game and 7/5 to trouble the scorers anytime.
Evergreen striker Brett Pitman is always a goal threat and while he is more likely to be a substitute, he may step off the bench to cause us problems. He has scored in his last two home starts and is priced up the same as Curtis.
I see a tightly contested first half but Portsmouth getting a couple of goals in the second half to defeat a spirited Wanderers side. The loss of Jake Wright to a hamstring injury after he had started to form a solid pairing with Jack Hobbs will play a big part in my humble opinion, with the inexperience of Yoan Zouma or Adam Senior ready to fill the void.
The HT draw/FT Pompey win is priced at 11/4 and 2-0 Portsmouth is 9/2.
Let’s hope my natural pessimism proves unfounded, that Pompey don’t indeed ‘play up’ and we can make the long journey back from Hampshire with some much needed points in the bag, much like our last competitive visit, just over a full decade ago when none other than Gary Cahill scored the winner for Gary Megson’s side.
Here are the scorers and starting line ups from that day:
Seems like a lifetime away.
Let’s bring those good times back ‘Hilly’, ‘Flicker’ and the boys!