Portsmouth must stand up and be counted

Matt Gronow, centre, is back to help Portsmouth
Matt Gronow, centre, is back to help Portsmouth
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Ian Chandler is calling on his Portsmouth team to raise their game against Effingham & Leatherhead at Rugby Camp tomorrow (2pm).

The battle for safety in London two south west sees three teams scrapping to avoid the drop.

Bottom two Farnham and Tadley both picked up bonus points last weekend and closed to just one point behind Portsmouth, who have lost five on the bounce.

It’s a miserable run and the walloping at Warlingham last weekend made unpleasant viewing for coach Chandler.

He believes tomorrow’s match represents a good opportunity for Portsmouth to start improving their fortunes.

Chandler said: ‘We need to turn things around quickly but this is a game we feel we can win.

‘When we played them at their place earlier in the season we dominated and should have won.

‘I am now looking for our senior players to stand up and be counted.

‘Two out of three teams will be relegated and we have to make sure that we are not one of them.

‘There is no question we have the ability to stay up but now is the time we have to produce the goods.

‘The league table doesn’t lie and up until now we have not been good enough.’

Veteran three-quarter Matt Gronow, 40, is drafted into the squad, along with the experienced Matt Morgan in the forwards.

In the pack, Darren Crabb returns from injury, while Dave Jones is available on the wing.

‘From here on in it is all about how we handle the pressure,’ added Chandler.

‘Traditionally that isn’t something Portsmouth have done well but we have to change that.

‘A win would see us open up a bit of daylight between us and our two closest rivals.’

Meanwhile, United Services need just one point against Farnborough at Burnaby Road to be crowned Hampshire one champions.

Services are not only unbeaten but have also picked up every available bonus point.

Director of rugby Matt Davis is delighted with the way his team are progressing but admits he won’t rest until they get the point they need.

‘At the start of the year we had a two-year plan for promotion and this has been a dream,’ he said.

‘When we set out in August we never dreamed we would be in this position.

‘There has been a lot of hard work put in but the most important thing is we have played with a smile on our faces.

‘If we are promoted then I believe it will take us back to where we belong.

‘The tremendous support received from the Royal Navy Rugby Union has been important to us.’

Services are hoping for a big crowd at the city centre ground as they look to wrap up the glory.