Goals almost guaranteed as US Portsmouth and  Bournemouth Poppies – two clean sheets in 29 games between them – get set for Wessex League clash

Goals are certainly on the agenda when US Portsmouth welcome Bournemouth Poppies to the Victory Stadium for the second time this season on Saturday.

Thursday, 30th September 2021, 11:02 am
Joe Johnson scores for US Portsmouth in their 3-3 Wessex League Cup draw with Bournemouth Poppies in late August. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

US came from 0-3 down to draw 3-3 in a pulsating Wessex League Cup tie at the end of August, equalising deep in injury time, before losing 5-4 on spot-kicks.

Since then, both clubs have laid claim to the title of ‘great entertainers’. Including that cup tie, Poppies’ last eight fixtures have provided 46 goals while USP’s last eight matches have seen 43 goals fly in.

But while Poppies have scored 24 and conceded 22, the stats aren’t so impressive for USP - 10 scored and 33 conceded. Of those, 10 came in the last two matches - derby losses at Fareham (1-6) and Moneyfields (1-4).

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Poppies haven’t kept a clean sheet in their 16 league and cup games in 2021/22 – they recently shipped five at lower tier Downton in the Wessex Cup - while US have only kept two in 13.

Boss Tom Grice has sat down with assistant Tom Jeffes and coach Steve Weston to thrash out where new signings are needed. But despite possessing the worst defensive record outside the bottom three, he doesn’t feel it’s right to highlight the defence.

‘Look at someone like Connor Saunders (who has been playing alongside Jeffes at centre half), he’s been going from strength to strength in every game,’ said Grice.

‘The midfield hasn’t been fit enough, so I’m not going to just blame the defence.’

Regarding Saturday’s game against Poppies, Grice said: ‘They do press high and (in the cup tie) we tried to play through their press and they picked our pockets. We won’t make the same mistake again.

‘We have the quality and we have a lot of pace - Brodie Spencer, Joe Johnson.’

Another pacy attacker, Dan Sibley, could return this weekend after missing the last two games on holiday.