US Portsmouth have to change winning team as they bid to leap into the Wessex League Premier’s top 10

US Portsmouth will aim to mark the halfway point of their debut Wessex League top flight campaign by moving into the top 10.

By Simon Carter
Monday, 15th November 2021, 10:58 am
Top scorer Joe Johnson has been a US Portsmouth regular for most of this season.
Picture: Neil Marshall
Top scorer Joe Johnson has been a US Portsmouth regular for most of this season. Picture: Neil Marshall

Tom Grice’s side play their 20th Premier Division match of the season at home to Alton on Tuesday.

Half of the club’s league games have been shoehorned into the opening 104 days of 2021/22. Their last match is currently scheduled for April 9 - meaning USP’s second lot of 20 fixtures will be played in a far less hectic 144-day period.

US are bidding for a fourth straight Premier success, against an Alton side who they drew 3-3 with in their historic opening Wessex top flight fixture on August 3.

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Boss Tom Grice’s team has evolved since that night in mid-Hampshire. Only five of the side that started at Alton - John Cass, Jack Chandler, Ryan Smart, Joe Johnson and assistant boss Tom Jeffes - lined up against Hamble at the weekend.

Results have improved since midfielder Tom Dinsmore was signed permanently from AFC Portchester and Royals boss Dave Carter also ‘loaned’ striker Lamin Jatta.

With Portchester having smacked 10 goals in their last two league games, US are hopeful Jatta will remain with them for a while longer.

Grice has named an unchanged XI for USP’s last two wins, but will need to make a change against Alton as Flo Vucaj is unavailable.

The youngster, dual signed from higher league Chichester City, has been playing central midfield since being drafted into the team in recent weeks. ‘Flo’s done extremely well,’ said Grice. ‘As he’s got fitter, he’s gone from strength to strength.’

Teenager Vinny McGhee came off the bench to score USP’s third goal in their surprise 3-0 victory at Hamble. He can expect to be involved again against Alton and Grice is also aiming to put a couple more youngsters from the reserves on the bench.

Another victory will take USP into ninth place, just a point adrift of seventh-placed Shaftesbury. But Grice is well aware his men have played more games than anyone else apart from rock bottom Hythe & Dibden.

Moneyfields, for example, will have SEVEN games in hand on their Portsea Island rivals after Tuesday evening.

Some clubs at a comparable level of the non-league pyramid - Jersey Bulls among them - have only played 11 league games this season. But Northern League outfit Billingham Town have completed 22 fixtures, the highest total of any club in the 14 step 5 divisions.