Stoneman back to boost Portsmouth

Ian Chandler
Ian Chandler
Dave Wheaton and the Fareham Heathens. Picture: Neil Marshall (171152-317)

Double trouble for heroic Heathens

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DAN STONEMAN returns for Portsmouth as they aim to make it four wins on the bounce.

The forward is back after 10 months out of the game with a career-threatening eye injury.

He has now been given the all-clear to return and will be welcomed into the fold – with Portsmouth missing nine senior players for the home clash with Cobham at Rugby Camp tomorrow (2.30pm).

Coach Ian Chandler said: ‘We have got nine first-team players unavailable this week and could have done without it.

‘They are either working, at a wedding, injured or in Europe.

‘The team we are putting out though is still very strong and it shows the strength in depth we have at the club.

‘It is good to have Dan back because he is a good, steady number eight.

‘He is strong physically and a good leader on the pitch.’

Forwards Tom Hankey, Sam Cutting, Jason Crabb, Matt Morgan and Rich Farmer, along with backs Curtis Barnes, Andy Duffus, Dan Neville and Alex O’Connor, are all missing.

But Portsmouth are in confident mood after winning their past three matches.

Chandler believes his side can keep the run going despite the disruption.

At Camberley last week the city club refused to get dragged into a forward battle and used their talented three-quarters to play a wider game.

Chandler feels that is a sign of the increasing strength and quality of his team.

‘Camberley were no mugs but we are starting to play well.’ said Chandler.

‘We are starting to show a bit more resilience and intelligence in our game.’

Fifth-placed Cobham are two places and five points ahead of Portsmouth.

A win for the Rugby Camp outfit will help them close the gap on the leading group as they bid to climb the table.

Winger Richie Blackmore makes his senior debut.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, 37-year-old veteran Matt Gronow is drafted into the squad and will be among the replacements.

Portsmouth: Carpenter, Blackmore, Richards, Chandler, Gee, Duffus C, Barnes A, Sargeant, Houlihan, French, Richardson, Crabb D, Lamont, Passat, Stoneman, Gronow, Cripps, Foukes.