Pompey writer Jordan Cross looks at the pre-match talking points as Kenny Jackett’s aim to extend their unbeaten league start with victory at Rochdale.
Pompey are going to face a test of their physical credentials as they go to Spotland.
Rochdale boss Keith Hill has put his bid to play a more expansive brand of football on the backburner in the midst of ropey start to the season.
After switching to using two more sizeable attackers either side of top scorer Ian Henderson, it’s been a more direct approach the former Barnsley boss has adopted.
It’s been successful, too, with Dale picking up a 3-0 win over Gillingham in their last home outing.
That victory was the latest of three wins and a draw before they were turned over 4-1 at Sunderland last time out.
A trip to one of the more unfashionable League One side presents the kind of challenge Pompey have to overcome if they are to be contenders this term.
It’s games like this one and last weekend’s meeting against Wycombe which offer the context to going to early pacesetters Peterborough and picking up victory.
Kenny Jackett is presented with two key decisions to make in his Rochdale team selection.
The big talking point is whether Brett Pitman is fancied over Oli Hawkins to lead the line.
Pitman has scored on his last three appearances and is pushing hard for just his second league start of the campaign.
Hawkins may not offer the same predatory eye for goal, but the manner in which he has offered a focal point to Pompey’s play and delivered improving hold-up play has been a major factor in his side’s early-season success.
At the back it’s a toss-up between Christian Burgess and Jack Whatmough to partner Matt Clarke in the middle of defence.
Whatmough is fit again after getting friendly minutes under his belt against Oxford United on Monday, with Burgess’ late foul leading to a penalty against Wycombe making it easy for Jackett to make the call to take him out of the starting XI.
Ben Close or Ben Thompson in the middle of the park is another interesting shout.
Thompson is arguably the more combative of the pair but Close’s calm efficiency has impressed in the past four games.
It’s not been an issue Kenny Jackett has focussed on with his players.
But Ben Close has revealed Pompey’s unbeaten league staff is something he and his team-mates are acutely aware of.
They can make it 10 League One games unbeaten by avoiding a loss at Spotland tomorrow.
That would bypass the openings under Paul Cook’s side in the 2015-16 campaign as the team went on to finish sixth in the table, before losing in the League Two play-offs.
The other team who suffered defeat after nine games was one of the most significant in the club’s history, however
Harry Redknapp’s Division One title winners lost their first league game at Norwich at this stage of the 2002-03 season.
Surpassing their efforts would be no mean feat, and move Jackett’s men a step closer to the 13 game unbeaten opening of Bob Jackson’s legendary side who conquered the top flight in the 1948-49 season.