Unknown territory for Appleton and Co

From left: Joel Ward, Joe Mattock and Stuart Gray at training before the south coast derby. Picture: Robin Jones

From left: Joel Ward, Joe Mattock and Stuart Gray at training before the south coast derby. Picture: Robin Jones

Geovanni, right, celebrates his goal on trial for Pompey with Noe Pamarot

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Pompey may be brimming with experienced professionals but just one of their starting XI tomorrow will be familiar with the cauldron of a south coast derby when they step out at Fratton Park.

It’s less than two years since the Blues completed their 4-1 demolition job at St Mary’s in the FA Cup.

But only Hayden Mullins looks like he will start both fixtures to underline the huge changes that have taken place at Pompey in recent times.

While Hermann Hreidarsson played that day and Jamie Ashdown and Kanu were on the bench, none of those are expected to start tomorrow’s clash.

And Blues boss Michael Appleton – himself a stranger to the fierce intensity of this south coast struggle – admits he is stepping into unknown territory.

Appleton said: ‘There is probably a bit of going into the unknown for everyone – me included.

‘I’m aware of the atmosphere that can be generated at Fratton Park and the players are going into the game in good form. They know what we have to do and we’ve been preparing all week for it.

‘There haven’t been that many derbies over the years because the teams have been in different divisions, but I’m aware of the history between the two cities and the two clubs.

‘It’s an atmosphere I haven’t sampled but I’ve played in a couple of other derbies and been to see some big derbies throughout the world and I’m looking forward to it.

‘Hopefully, it will live up to the billing.

‘Until I have sampled it for myself, I can’t say how it compares with other derbies, but from what I’ve been told, it’s right up there with the biggest.’

Appleton knows the result is out of his hands, but he has pledged Pompey will give their all for the cause and insists all of the players understand the importance of the fixture.

He said: ‘I know the importance of the result to the fans and it probably goes a bit further than just bragging rights for the fans.

‘All of the players know that as well.

‘I’m preparing the players as best as I can for the game.

‘A lot of the staff have been talking to me about it and I’ve had a lot of Pompey fans pulling me on the street and telling me how important it is.

‘It’s just important that we keep our run going and put in another decent performance.

‘If you put in a decent performance, you give yourself an opportunity to win the game.

‘We will give it everything and will give it our best shot.

‘I don’t know any manager or coach who can guarantee something other than 100-per-cent effort.

‘Hopefully, the talent will show on the day and we will just edge it. We’ve got a decent home record this season and we hope that continues.’

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