Portsmouth raring to go after suffering first league defeat 

Portsmouth coach Neil McRoberts, right. Picture: Neil Marshall
Portsmouth coach Neil McRoberts, right. Picture: Neil Marshall

Portsmouth are hoping the combination of old and new can get them back to winning ways against Old Tiffinians at Rugby Camp.

The home side have had to wait two weeks to play again after suffering their first London three south west defeat of the season against Warlingham

Portsmouth were due to face Hellingley and Petersfield in two cup games last weekend but both opponents pulled out.

Neil McRoberts admits it has been a frustrating period for his side but is backing his troops to make up for lost time.

The vastly-experienced Matt Farnes will feature in an outside-half role against Old Tiffinians, while wing-forward Jasper Pickersgill makes his debut. 

McRoberts holds both players in high regard.

The senior coach said: ‘Our players are straining at the leash to get back out on the pitch.

‘They are raring to go and put things right from the last game.

‘Old Tiffinians will be difficult opponents and we know we have to perform well to beat them.

‘Having Matt Farnes, with all his National League experience in the key outside-half position, can help make the difference.

‘A lot of our play is executed through this position with the ball and what can be fashioned from it.

‘With his experience he also has the ability to change things if they are not going right in a game.

‘No-one is more qualified than him to be able to do that.

‘At the same time, we have Jasper Pickersgill making his debut.

‘He moved into the area with the Royal Navy and we are lucky to pick him up.

‘His credentials are good having played rugby in Ireland for St Mary's College.

‘He is a big, physical, dynamic player around the park.

‘The prospect of him and Tim Snowden together in our back row is an exciting one.’

Fourth-placed Portsmouth are heading into what could be a make-or-break period of the season.

They have a tough run of games between now and Christmas.

That includes a derby against second-placed United Services.

McRoberts concedes the next few months will shape the Rugby Camp outfit’s campaign – but his adamant his side's sole focus is on Old Tiffinians.

He added: ‘The next couple of months will shape the rest of our season.

‘We will have to concentrate to come through it in the shape we want.

‘First and foremost, though, we must beat Old Tiffinians.

‘They are a big, quick, fit side so we will have to nullify their strengths.

‘We have to set out to win the ball and not give possession away.

‘Certainly we can't allow them to attack us from broken play.

‘Hopefully we have learned a few lessons from our Warlingham defeat.’