Opposing View: Portsmouth

WEIGHT OF THE WORLD: Michael Appleton has been faced with a monumentally hard task since taking over at Fratton Park.
WEIGHT OF THE WORLD: Michael Appleton has been faced with a monumentally hard task since taking over at Fratton Park.
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IF Doncaster Rovers have had a season to forget then Portsmouth’s has been frankly apocalyptic.

Years of woeful mismanagement too murky to begin to address have caught up with the club.

And barring a miracle, their sharp decline from FA Cup winners will continue with the slump to League One.

The financial disaster at the club left Michael Appleton with a threadbare squad as big earners were sent out on loan to ease the strain on the budget.

The effect that has had on the form has been catastrophic.

When your players are helping out in the ticket office and on reception in order to keep the club going, inspiring a push to stay in the division is always going to be a huge task.

Pompey sat in 18th before their ten point deduction on February 17.

In the 12 games Portsmouth have had since the penalty was confirmed, they have failed to make up those ten points.

Away form this season has been terrible with just 12 points picked up in 21 games on the road.

Appleton has managed to instil a good deal of battle and determination into his side and only seven of their 20 defeats so far have been by more than one goal.

The heart they showed in holding promotion chasing local rivals Southampton to a 2-2 draw briefly raised hopes of a remarkable push for survival.

On-field they remain a tricky opponent due to strong organisation.

Portsmouth are largely transitional in their moves between defence and attack, switching between 4-5-1 and 4-3-3 without and with the ball respectively.

Against Southampton last weekend, Pompey operated with a fluid front line featuring Kelvin Etuhu, Luke Varney and Chris Maguire.

All three can operate as central strikers or in wide roles which allows for the comfortable switch between a three man front line and a five man midfield.

Pompey have largely sat back and invited the opposition to come on to their packed midfield but with the size of the stakes for the visitors, expect them to push on for victory.

The 4-4-2 formation which Dean Saunders adopted against Burnley was somewhat toothless with James Hayter largely isolated.

Rovers are likely to have more joy on the counter attack and a 4-5-1 line-up will facilitate a quick transition from front to back, just as the opposition seek to do.

Matters elsewhere may condemn Rovers to the drop but with the right approach they can ensure they are not the only ones heading for League One on Saturday night.

One to watch: Luke Varney

Luke Varney is the type of forward who never stops running and the pace he packs makes him a dangerous prospects for opposition defenders.

Able to play down the middle or out wide, the 29-year-old is a real handful as he proved during his loan spell in the Premier League with Blackpool.

Varney opted to stick with Pompey through their current plight despite interest from Leeds.

The Crewe product even helped out on the Fratton Park reception desk and in the ticket office.

Recent form

Apr 10 L v Millwall (h) 0-1

Apr 7 D v Soton (a) 2-2

Mar 31 L v Burnley (h) 1-5

Mar 27 W v Hull (h) 2-0

Mar 24 L v Coventry (a) 2-0

Mar 20 W v Birmingham (h) 4-1

Head to head

Played 13

Rovers wins 2

Pompey wins 9

Draws 2