Cup victory could transform Havant’s season

Rob Matthews
Rob Matthews
Ryan Wilkie in possession for Portsmouth. Picture: Duncan Shepherd

Portsmouth rise to call for ‘heart and desire’

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Havant coach Rob Matthews wants Havant to use their Hampshire Cup tie against Portsmouth at Rugby Camp as a springboard for survival in the National League (2.30pm).

The Hooks Lane side are bottom of National Three London and south-east without a win after nine games, but Matthews still believes survival is far from a lost cause.

He admits, though, that beating London South One hosts Portsmouth is vital to boost morale.

‘We must use this match as a platform to build for the rest of the season,’ said Matthews.

‘In the past we may have been a bit dismissive of this competition but, given our current run of form, that is no longer the case.

‘We have some vital league games coming up and morale-wise we need to win this one.

‘There are home games against Luton and Bracknell to come in the next couple of weeks and they are games we are targeting to win.

‘There are a series of other games between now and Christmas that we feel are winnable and it will take only a couple of wins to transform our season.

‘The opportunity is there to win three or four games before Christmas.

‘If we do, we give ourselves a good chance of finishing out of the bottom three.

‘Against Staines recently we showed in our performance that we can do it even though we lost.

‘The reason was we didn’t do it for the whole 80 minutes. The time has come now, though, to deliver and restore more of our self-belief.’

James Sutton, who scored two tries at Canterbury last week, retains his place on the wing, as does the influential Darren Bamford in the centre.

Havant have Pat Gains, ex Wharfedale, and Tom Southall, ex-Chichester, making their debuts in the squad, though there is a slight doubt on the fitness of outside-half Joel Knight.

Portsmouth will also be optimistic they can come out on top and cause an upset even though they have had an indifferent start to their season.

Skipper Greg Hoolihan reckons his side are capable of springing a surprise as long as they don’t find themselves chasing the game early on.

‘One of our downfalls so far this season has been our poor starts,’ said Hoolihan. ‘You can’t afford to do that and our focus in this game will be on producing a good performance from the start.

‘We struggled in the scrummage against Haywards Heath last week and must improve in that area.

‘It will be a tough test because they play a league above us and you can never under-estimate a Havant side.

‘Our open play has been excellent, though, and we must look to exploit that tomorrow.

‘It is a local derby and as players we are always excited by that.’

Portsmouth: Duffus, Gronow, Barnes, Cripps, Richardson, Bion, Hall, Lynch, Carpenter, Cutler, Neville, Long, Cuming, Masters, Sargent, Hoolihan, Crabb J, Hankey, Whitehouse, Brock, Gicquel, Pollard.

Havant: Duke, Blackburn L, Bamford, Sutton, Morris, Knight, Davenport L, Fenn, Austin, Elsmore, Roberts, Bellman, Goodger, Williams, Barfoot.