Portsmouth feeling the pressure of drop threat

Portsmouth need a survival miracle. Picture: Neil Marshall
Portsmouth need a survival miracle. Picture: Neil Marshall
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Portsmouth must beat Old Reigatians tomorrow if they are to keep alive their chances of avoiding relegation from London two south-west.

The massively disappointing 37-7 defeat at relegation rivals Farnham has left the Rugby Camp club in a precarious position.

With just two games remaining, Ian Chandler’s team occupy one of the relegation spots – three points behind their Surrey rivals.

Chandler accepts his side’s fate is no longer in their own hands and they need a miracle to survive.

‘Last weekend was one of the low points of my 37 years with the club,’ said Chandler.

‘I felt sorry for our loyal supporters who made the effort to travel to Farnham because it wasn’t fair to them.

‘As coaches we have to ask why the players couldn’t maintain their levels after starting well.

‘After making two mistakes the team just crumpled, showing a lack of mental strength.’

Chandler believes his side have suffered throughout the season when things have gone against them in matches.

They haven’t been able to bounce back and recover their form quickly.

That has been one of the key reasons for their struggles and certainly played a big impact in the heavy defeat at Farnham.

Chandler added: ‘As a team, we seem to lack the ability to overcome setbacks and that has cost us throughout the season.

‘You could see the confidence just draining away and it is hard to fathom.

‘The situation now is fairly straightforward.

‘We have to win our last two games and hope Farnham don’t.’

The coach faces the massive task of lifting his Portsmouth side off the floor following the events of last weekend.

Old Reigatians are just one place above the hosts.

So it is a game Portsmouth have every chance of winning.

But they know any repeat of what happened will last weekend will leave them licking their wounds and facing up to the reality of relegation.

The Rugby Camp outfit will have to display the passion and purpose they lacked at Farnham.

It still won’t be easy for Portsmouth, though.

The visitors inflicted a heavy 45-15 defeat on the south-coast side earlier in the season.

And they will travel down looking for a repeat success.

Portsmouth director of rugby Nigel Morgan admits relegation looks on the cards – even if it is not inevitable.

If they do go down, Morgan knows it will have big implications.

‘A club of our size should be a league higher not lower,’ he said.

‘Not that many years ago we were in National south-west three.

‘If we do go down a lot of hard work will be needed to get the club back to where we feel it should be.

‘We are the only club in Hampshire that regularly fields five teams and need to have a senior team playing as high as possible.

‘Going down won’t make life any easier when it comes to recruiting players.

‘We have started to put in place the necessary rebuilding programme.

‘For the moment the focus, however, is on trying to stay up and to do that we have to beat Old Reigatians.’

Portsmouth: Cantwell, D Jones, Gates, Richards, Tamatawale, L Chandler, C Morgan, Cumming, Hoolihan, T Smith, Crabb, Heffernan, Brock, Clark, Hill. Replacements: Hopkins, Young, French, Giquel