'Not a must-win for Portsmouth': Boss of the six-month League One leaders relaxed over Derby threat

The Blues have been League One leaders since September 19
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A Pride Park point heralded the start of Pompey’s League One dominance.

Now the six-month-long table toppers host their nearest rivals hoping to take another huge stride towards promotion - and the title.

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John Mousinho’s men have the opportunity to haul themselves within five points of the Championship when they entertain second-placed Derby tonight.

John Mousinho and Paul Warne shared a Pride Park point in September. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImagesJohn Mousinho and Paul Warne shared a Pride Park point in September. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages
John Mousinho and Paul Warne shared a Pride Park point in September. Picture: Jason Brown/ProSportsImages

September’s previous encounter between the sides ended in a 1-1 draw, with Colby Bishop netting a stoppage-time leveller.

Just 72 hours later, the Blues claimed a 3-2 success at Barnsley to top League One for the first time this season and, but for one week, have remained there.

Now Paul Warne’s side visit Fratton Park as this memorable season edges towards a tantalising conclusion.

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Mousinho told The News: ‘We went to Derby off the back end of an international break and had a couple of injuries, nothing too bad at that point.

‘There were high expectations of getting something internally, but we probably hadn’t really tested ourselves against one of the big boys away from home at that point.

‘We got a deserved point, maybe could have taken all three, and followed it up with a win at Barnsley. Then, at the weekend, we came back and beat Lincoln at home.

‘That was probably the first week where the side had a nice bit of rhythm and, thankfully, we’ve managed to continue that for large parts of the season.

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‘We went through a bit of a tricky patch in the New Year, but since then the lads have been absolutely magnificent.

‘Derby are now coming to us and I don’t think of it as a must-win. If we get the result we haven’t achieved anything - and if we don’t get the result then it’s not the end of the world either. It’s a very, very similar message as it was against Bolton.

‘I remember that night, it was called a make-or-break, and we beat them - but we knew at that stage nothing had been achieved at that point of the season. It was nice to get the three points, it was nice to have the distance between us and second, but it didn’t mean anything.

‘Fast forward six weeks later and we were looking at a position where, if Bolton’s game against Cheltenham hadn’t been cancelled on the day, they would have overtaken us in the table with some games in hand.

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‘Nothing is ever make-or-break, certainly not at this stage, although we are close to that. But we will try to win the game.’

Fratton Park will have a huge say in this season’s destiny, with four of the Blues’ final six matches at home.

Although, considering results elsewhere on Bank Holiday Monday, they cannot secure a promotion spot over the next two fixtures, regardless of the outcome.

Mousinho added: ‘It does feel like a big game and obviously a huge amount of importance is attached to it.

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‘But, for large parts of the season and certainly for the last 6-7 weeks, every match has felt like an absolutely massive game, really big occasions and really important matches.

‘There’s a bit added tonight because it’s first v second, it’s Tuesday night under the lights at Fratton, it’s over the Bank Holiday weekend with only six games to go.

‘We’ve had loads of those occasions this year, that comes with playing for and coaching Pompey. Just being involved in the football club, most of them are huge games.’

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