Portsmouth have no margin for error

Portsmouth skipper Greg Hoolihan
Portsmouth skipper Greg Hoolihan
Luke Simmons slides in for the opening try. Picture: Neil Marshall (171730-1)

Portsmouth closing in on Twickenham dream

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Portsmouth captain Greg Hoolihan has stressed the need to focus as his side face a must-win London One south game at Thanet Wanderers (3pm).

The Kent hosts are already relegated and, with just two games remaining, Portsmouth are determined to avoid the same fate.

The Hilsea-based club go into the final fortnight occupying the last relegation spot, two points behind Trojans and three behind Haywards Heath.

Hoolihan accepts his team probably need to win both their final games to survive. But, whatever happens tomorrow, their fate will go to the final weekend.

‘Not only do we have to win but we also may need to take the bonus points,’ said Hoolihan.

‘The fact that Thanet are already down won’t help us a lot.

‘It means they can play with no pressure on them and release the shackles.

‘They are likely to throw caution to the wind and we will need to be wary of that.

‘Everyone in the side knows how important this game is to the club.

‘We will need to be fully focused, switched on from the start and play our best rugby.’

Portsmouth have shown at times during this season that, at full-strength, they can be a match for anyone.

Injuries have decimated the squad on occasions, though, which has left them fighting for their lives.

It is likely to be a massive fortnight, with fellow relegation battlers Dover due at Rugby Camp on the final Saturday.

Ian Chandler’s team have been hit hard by injuries once again, with powerful forwards Darren Crabb and Luke Richardson ruled out by injury.

‘We have been plagued by injuries all season,’ said Hoolihan.

‘Before Christmas it was in the forwards and just when we started to get those players back, the same happened in the backs.

‘It is important that we put all that behind us and get the results we need.

‘We want to stay in this league and know that we are more than good enough to compete at this level.

‘The players know how well we can play and it is important that if things don’t sometimes go our way we don’t retreat inside ourselves.

‘We cannot afford to retreat.

‘It will be up to the forwards to get on top, draw Thanet in and create space out wide where we have the players with pace to hurt them.

‘We have beaten them at home already this season but it might be a bit different tomorrow after our three-and-a-half hour coach trip.

‘It is our responsibility to make sure that doesn’t have any effect.’

Portsmouth: Barnes, Frazier, Chandler, Richards, Gronow, Neville, Cutler, Cripps, Hoolihan, Hankey, Griquel, French, Bowen, Long, Crabb J, Matini, Lynch, Carpenter.