‘Mid-table finish after all our upheaval would be a result’ – US Portsmouth boss Tom Grice

US Portsmouth boss Tom Grice is targeting a mid-table finish in the club’s historic debut Wessex League Premier Division season.

By Simon Carter
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 4:26 pm
US Portsmouth boss Tom Grice, left. Picture: Keith Woodland
US Portsmouth boss Tom Grice, left. Picture: Keith Woodland

US are currently seven points off 11th-placed Blackfield & Langley, having played three more games. Equally, they are the same amount of points ahead of fourth-bottom Christchurch.

But Grice is looking upwards rather than over his shoulder ahead of this week’s home clash with an Alresford side just two points above them, albeit with four games in hand.

US not only lost a huge amount of players to Moneyfields last summer, but in a bid for a winning formula have used 40 players in league action this term - only 11 of whom have started at least 10 of their 25 league fixtures. Seventeen have played less than five league games, including sub appearances.

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The likes of George Root, Obi Saidy, Jack Barker and Luke Richards have left, while in recent weeks Jack Chandler has joined Moneyfields and John Cass - one of USP’s league regulars - has also left.

Cass departed the Victory Stadium in the wake of a second red card this season, in the 2-0 home loss to Blackfield in mid-December. He has been invited to train with Moneyfields but hasn’t yet managed it due to working away.

Only three players who started at Horndean - Cameron Quirke, Ryan Smart and Dan Sibley - started the season in the US first team frame.

Following the departures of Chandler and Cass, only Jeffes, Quirke, Sibley and Frankie Paige remain from last season.

Experience has been brought in via the signings of Dale Mason (Baffins) and Simon Woods (Fareham), while Tom Dinsmore brings a higher division pedigree.

Youngsters Pip Willcox – brother of Fareham’s Archie - and Munir Hadi have also been given a chance, playing the last two games in the full back roles.

‘I’m extremely happy with the squad we’ve got now,’ said Grice. ‘I would be happy if we can get ourselves up to slightly below mid-table, with all that upheaval that’s happened that would be a result.’

Horndean welcome back skipper Tom Jeffes after the assistant manager missed Tuesday’s 3-1 win at Horndean through suspension.

Owen Scammell is unavailable and top scorer Joe Johnson remains sidelined after injury, though he has returned to training.

Two of Horndean’s goals in midweek were from outside the box and Grice recalled: ‘It was a challenging game to say the least, they are extremely well organised.

‘It was touch and go whether it would be on, it was extremely soft and I thought it might be a bit of a leveller for us, but Horndean have quality throughout.

‘They set traps for you, they engage you and then try to take advantage of the space you’ve left with the likes of Zak Willett, Connor Duffin and Harry Jackson.

‘We set up a certain way, but you can’t do anything about balls that are smashed into the top bin from 25 yards. That’s what I mean about their quality - if you find a way to stop them, they’ll find another way to score.

‘I was proud of our second half performance. It was a tough game, players felt after 70 minutes that they’d played 90 because of the heavy pitch.’