Home advantage makes US Portsmouth favourites in huge FA Vase clash – Christchurch boss Cherrett
Christchurch boss Ollie Cherrett insists having home advantage makes US Portsmouth favourites to come through their huge FA Vase fourth round high noon showdown.
And the Priory boss reckons USP's results in the past two seasons show they should be playing in the Wessex League Premier - and not Division 1
Christchurch travel to the Victory Stadium for the lunchtime cup clash with a last 16 trip to Bridgwater or Tavistock up for grabs.
But Cherrett insists his team face a tall order against a division-lower USP he feels would be more than capable operating at step 5 level.
Glenn Turbull's men have already beaten three of Christchurch's Wessex Premier rivals to reach this stage - AFC Portchester, Bournemouth Poppies and Brockenhurst.
Cherrett claimed: ‘Let’s be honest, people looking in from the outside will be expecting a Christchurch win and a reasonably comfortable one.
‘I actually look at them as a Wessex Premier side. For the past few seasons they’ve been very, very competitive - probably should have got promotion - and are competing at that level regularly.
‘For me, going up to them, I’d actually probably put them as favourites because they’re at home.
'Especially after a long lay-off, both sets of players have lost match fitness and everything else.
‘It’s going to come down to a good, old-fashioned cup tie and who wants it most on the day.
‘It’ll be a very, very even game.'
The fourth round tie will be Christchurch's first competitive action since beating Falmouth on penalties in the Vase third round on December 27 to set up the USP clash.
Falmouth, like USP, play at step 6 level.
Cherrett conceded he's faced a difficult balancing act trying to get his squad up to scratch for the clash while running the risk of picking up 'silly' injuries with players having gone so long without any competition football.
Christchurch have squeezed in friendlies against Verwood Town, Hamworthy Recreation and Blackfield & Langley ahead of travelling to Portsea Island.
Cherrett feels his squad are as best prepared as they can be.
He said: ‘You’re always wary when players have had a long lay-off, you need to get them match fit but at the same time you don’t want to start picking up silly injuries.
'It’s been a good opportunity for the lads, for all of them to get minutes and have that claim for a place in the starting 11.
‘There won’t be much between the two sides at all. It’ll be very much who wants it most on the day.
‘Hopefully it’s not an individual mistake, hopefully we can have a really good game that’ll show off the Wessex League and how strong it can be - both divisions.'
Christchurch and USP have the best records in their divisions since the start of the 2019/20 season.
USP boast a 2.23 points-per-game record in Division 1, while Priory’s 2.16 average is the best in the Premier.
While US topped Division 1 in 2019/20 when the pandemic struck, Cherrett’s side were 11 points adrift of Premier leaders Alresford with four games in hand.
This season Priory won seven of their 11 league games, while US won seven out of 10.
Across league and cup action, US were on an eight-match winning streak when the non-league season was paused in December. Christchurch had won their last six matches, including the shoot-out win against Falmouth.