Pompey v Plymouth: pre-match talking points

Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler
Conor Chaplin could start againsyt Plymouth. Picture: Joe Pepler
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Will Rooney looks ahead to Pompey’s clash against Plymouth and discusses the main talking points.

The rivalry commences – again

Let’s just be clear – this game isn’t a derby. Not that any of the Fratton faithful consider it to be.

Derbies are based on geographical location and that only.

Pompey v Southampton is a derby. Liverpool v Everton is a derby. But Pompey v Plymouth – how many football fans in Hampshire grow up supporting the Pilgrims?

Liverpool v Manchester United isn’t considered a derby, despite the two clubs being just 32 miles apart. Neither is Barcelona v Real Madrid, the biggest game in football.

They are instead fierce rivalries. And that is what Pompey v Plymouth has become, having met 10 times in the past four seasons.

The two teams will lock horns again tomorrow, with the clash taking place in League One this time.

There have been some memorable moments in recent years.

Jamille Matt’s headbutt on Michael Doyle in the 2016 play-off semi-final first leg at Fratton Park had Pompey boss Paul Cook fuming.

Meanwhile, the return leg at Home Park is one that members of the Fratton faithful have firmly moved to the back of their minds.

But it was Pompey who had the last laugh last term, pipping Derek Adams’ side to the League Two title on the final day of the season.

The battle will reconvene tomorrow and expect a ferocious and volatile contest at a sold-out Fratton Park.

Who will replace Burgess?

Suspended Christian Burgess’ absence against Plymouth will be huge for Pompey.

Not only is he the heart and soul of Kenny Jackett’s defence, the centre-half has played in the past six matches against the Pilgrims.

Burgess has become well accustomed to marking Plymouth striker Jake Jervis and thwarting the threat of talisman Graham Carey.

Jackett seemed to have found a solution to his team’s defensive problems in the Blues’ past four games.

With Burgess serving a one-match ban, it looks likely that Oli Hawkins will remain in central defence – despite Brett Pitman being a doubt for the game.

The Pompey boss has to decide whether to restore Matt Clarke to the nucleus of his rearguard or recall Nathan Thompson to fill the berth.

If Jackett opts for the former, it’ll mean he will be forced to make three changes to his defence that has started the past four games.

Clarke has featured in a left-back role adeptly, and the Blues seemed to have found the solidity they’ve been craving in the problem position.

Thompson played in central defence at Swindon.

However, the Pompey boss regards him as a right-back and doesn’t feel the 27-year-old has the stature of a central defender.

Will Brett make it?

The last thing Kenny Jackett wants to do is risk Brett Pitman for the game.

Pompey’s captain missed Tuesday’s loss against Peterborough due to a hamstring injury he picked up against Southend last weekend.

If Jackett knew Pitman was playing through the pain barrier against the Shrimpers, he’d have likely hauled the striker off immediately.

Hamstring injuries are tricky setbacks to shake off. The last thing Pompey want is their captain out for an extended period.

Pitman believes he will be ready but there’s no chance his manager will take a risk unless there’s 100-per-cent certainty.

Jackett has decent options to replace his top goalscorer.

Conor Chaplin will be desperate to prove to his boss that he can fire on all cylinders and improve his games-to-starts ratio.

Meanwhile, Curtis Main would relish the physical challenge Plymouth central defenders Sonny Bradley and Yann Songo’o will impose on the Blues.