Portsmouth challenged to show mental strength

Lee Chandler. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141111-915)
Lee Chandler. Picture: Allan Hutchings (141111-915)
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Ian Chandler admits Portsmouth’s London two south west status remains in the balance with six games left to play.

The Rugby Camp club are one place – and three points – above the drop zone going into their vital fixture at Weybridge Vandals tomorrow.

Chandler has been encouraged by the return of key players but accepts time is running out.

‘I think we need to win two, if not three, of our remaining games to stay up,’ said the head coach.

‘Although we have players coming back from injury, they don’t have the luxury of a honeymoon period.

‘They have to perform straight away and there can be no excuses.

‘It is a big ask but the players have the ability to pull it off.

‘Now it’s all down to mental strength and making sure we pick up the necessary wins to avoid relegation.

‘Our fate is very much in our own hands because all our remaining games are against teams around us in the table.

‘The bottom two still have to play all the top sides but we must not make the mistake of assuming they won’t win any.’

Portsmouth’s main problem all season has been the absence of key players because of injury.

The club have been most badly hit at half-back, where the lack of a consistent pairing has had a detrimental impact.

Chandler hopes that problem will be solved by the inclusion of University of Portsmouth student Sam Ellis and the return of experienced fly-half Lee Chandler.

Lee Chandler broke his ankle in pre-season and has played no part since then.

Having him back will increase the solidity and organisation at outside-half and increase the opportunities for Portsmouth’s talented three-quarters.

In the forwards, the club hope to welcome back Luke Richardson, Will Brock, Adam Long and Ian French.

The pack will need to be at their best if they are to turn the tables on Weybridge, who won at Portsmouth earlier in the season.

‘We know what to expect from Weybridge with their physical forward-orientated game,’ said the head coach.

‘It is up to us to front them up, take them on and win the ball that will allow us to play our game.

‘Our players have to be prepared to go there and get the result we need.

‘It has been a frustrating season because we believe, if we had been able to field our strongest side on a more consistent basis, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

‘We feel we are capable of challenging at the top.

‘It highlights our lack of strength in depth but the time for excuses are gone now and we have to make sure that we do what needs to be done.’