Crunch time for Portsmouth

Will Phillips carries the ball for Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (133504-7)
Will Phillips carries the ball for Portsmouth. Picture: Paul Jacobs (133504-7)
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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Portsmouth are bidding to kickstart their climb up London two south west with victory over fellow strugglers Farnham tomorrow (2.30pm).

The Rugby Camp club are just one point in front of the basement boys ahead of the crucial relegation battle.

‘We know we are in a scrap and have to be prepared to dig deep,’ said Portsmouth coach Ian Chandler.

‘I am targeting two wins out of our three games before Christmas.

‘We are starting to get the backbone of our forwards returning from injury and unavailability and that will make a big difference.

‘It should make us even more competitive and give us an improved platform to release our dangerous three-quarters.

‘Farnham may be bottom but they are no mugs and we are expecting a tough game.

‘It is one we need to win, though, to start pushing away from the danger zone.’

The home side are boosted by the return of number eight Will Phillips.

He will provide increased power and pace in the forwards, while wingers Ed Hopkins and Mark Ovens return from injury.

Elsewhere, Hampshire one leaders United Services are expecting a huge battle with closest-rivals Bognor at Burnaby Road.

Unbeaten Services head into the game with a four-point lead at the top.

But it promises to be a baptism of fire for fly-half Jim Taylor, who makes his debut after switching from Chichester.

‘Jim is very experienced and has the ability to control the game,’ said Services coach Graeme Butterworth.

‘He will cope with what I expect to be a full-blooded affair between the two top sides.

‘It should be a real showcase for Hampshire 
one rugby with two strong packs and two exciting backlines.

‘It is an opportunity for us to stretch our lead at the top.

‘Our aim is to get to Christmas with our unbeaten record intact.’

Joe Lynch moves in for his first game at tight-head prop and Matt Dowds comes in at wing-forward.

Winless Southsea Nomads make trip to Aldershot & Fleet in Hampshire two.