Portsmouth determined to make Vandals suffer

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Portsmouth are targeting a vital victory against Weybridge Vandals at Rugby Camp tomorrow (2pm).

Director of rugby Ed Neville feels a much-needed win can give the team crucial momentum as they look to climb away from the London two south west table drop zone.

Portsmouth have played only once since Christmas because of the bad weather.

The lack of games has left them second from bottom, five points adrift of safety.

But the men from Rugby Camp do have the luxury of two games in hand on the clubs above them.

But Neville has stressed the importance of making the most of the matches, starting tomorrow.

He said: ‘Having to play catch up brings extra pressures.

‘Other teams around us have managed to play and pick up points.

‘Despite that I am still confident we have good enough players and enough character in our squad to do the business.

‘The situation is no different to that at the start of the year when we needed four or five wins to reach a mid-table position.

‘We have no reason to fear any of the teams we have left to play.’

Neville is boosted by the return of Ian Thatcher and Darren Crabb in the second row.

The pair will give the city club an extra degree of aggression and physical presence in the forwards.

With the Rugby Camp pitch likely to be heavy underfoot their contribution could prove vital.

Thatcher is adept at winning possession on the ground and in the air while Crabb showed his try scoring qualities in his previous outing.

‘They are just the type of players we need for this game,’ said Neville.

‘We certainly won’t be going backwards with these two in our side.

Neville believes his squad possesses deadly pace in the three-quarters, with returning 40-year-old Matt Gronow on one wing and Curtis Barnes on the other.

Gronow is still one of the most lethal finishers at this level and the pacy Barnes grabbed a hat-trick of tries last time out.

Portsmouth lost at Weybridge earlier in the season when the home side scored four tries from driving mauls.

‘We have worked a lot in training on stopping that ploy,’ said Neville.

‘Against Gosport and Guildford we showed that we are a lot better at it.

‘Because we have not played for a few weeks the players are hungry to get back playing again.

‘They are champing at the bit and we need to channel their eagerness.

‘It is important we stay at this level in order to continue our rebuilding.

‘Eventually we want to move back up.

‘I have no doubts that we can achieve that.’

Portsmouth: Harris, Barnes, Gates, Jones, Gronow, Chandler, Owens, Douglas, Hoolihan, French, Crabb, Thatcher, Giquel, Long, Phillips. Replacements: Nichol, Lamont, Fookes.