Portsmouth refusing to 'write off' promotion chances - but senior coach Neil McRoberts admits it will be tough

Senior coach Neil McRoberts is looking for improved performances from Portsmouth in the second half of the London 3 South West campaign.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 12:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 2:39 pm
Captain Darren Leggott is back available for Portsmouth. Picture: Keith Woodland (160219-340)

The city club resume after the mid-season break with a Hampshire derby against Andover at Rugby Camp.

McRoberts admits the first half of 2019/20 was disappointing and virtually ended their chances of promotion.

Portsmouth are marooned in mid-table, having won just half of their opening 10 games.

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After opening the term with four straight wins, they then lost five of their past six matches.

For McRoberts, the focus is now on achieving greater consistency.

‘We had an indifferent first half to the campaign,’ he said.

‘Our performances lacked any great consistency and we were a bit off the pace of the top teams.

‘Although promotion is still mathematically possible, it will be very tough.

‘We won't write it off.

‘It means that we can put that pressure out of our heads and concentrate on what we are doing.

‘I am looking for more consistent performances in our remaining 10 games.

‘Six of the games are at home and I am looking for us to turn Rugby Camp into a fortress.

‘Away from home, we need to be more competitive.

‘If we can win all our home games and get some results away then it will put the pressure back on the teams above us.’

McRoberts is boosted by the return of captain Daz Leggott, who missed the games before Christmas.

Hooker Greg Houlihan is also back after family and work commitments kept him out for much of the first half of the season.

He will bring extra experience and added abrasiveness to the Portsmouth forwards, and his return allows Anthony Fooks to move into the back row.

The hosts also field a very experienced midfield with Robert Lumberton and Kieran McRoberts re-appearing in the centre.

Matt Farnes is at outside-half and there will be a debut off the bench for Daniel Fleming in the second row.

Fleming, a doctor, has National League experience with Worthing and has moved into the area with work.

‘We know what Andover will bring to the table,' said McRoberts.

‘They have a lot of physicality up front and will provide a big challenge.

‘Some hard, brutal work will be required if we are to get the upper hand.

‘If we can achieve that, then it will lay the foundations for a win.

‘Pitches are heavier at this time of the year so we need to adapt.

‘After nearly a month without a game, we are all looking forward to getting stuck in again.’