Portsmouth up for derby battle

Gosport & Fareham's Wes Dugan will be carefully watched by Portsmouth Picture: Mick Young
Gosport & Fareham's Wes Dugan will be carefully watched by Portsmouth Picture: Mick Young

Portsmouth out to turn tables on Cranleighans

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Ed Neville believes his Portsmouth side can rise to the occasion of their big London two south west derby at Gosport & Fareham tomorrow (2.15pm).

The home side are unbeaten in the league this season and stand four points clear at the top of the table.

Meanwhile, the Rugby Camp club currently sit third from bottom in the standings.

However, Portsmouth director of rugby Neville insists his side go into the clash with nothing to lose.

With a sold-out Christmas lunch taking place at the club before kick-off, there is sure to be a large, vociferous support for both teams on the touchlines.

And Neville reckons the atmosphere could inspire his team in what is bound to be a hard-fought affair.

‘We know that we go into the game as massive underdogs,’ said Neville.

‘Gosport are expected to win so there is no pressure on us.

‘They had a good win over us at our place early in the season and they aren’t unbeaten for no reason.

‘Games between us are always very competitive and I don’t see this being any different.

‘We have improved since the start of the season and will look to take the game to them.

‘There is no doubt that it will be very physical up front and we will have to match them.

‘Gosport also have some strong runners in their side and we will have to shackle Wes Dugan, who is always a threat.

‘We will have to be up to the challenge and be sound defensively.

‘Hopefully, the players will be up for the challenge and we don’t intend to go there and lie down for them.’

Portsmouth boosted their confidence with a good win over bottom club Teddington last weekend.

At the same time, Gosport & Fareham were showing their power by comfortably disposing of third-placed Tottonians at Gosport Park.

On paper, the home side should prove too powerful for the city club, but they cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Gosport & Fareham coach Scott Ashley is expecting a stern examination from the visitors, despite their lowly league position.

‘This is a massive game for both teams,’ said Ashley.

‘There is a lot at stake – pride, pecking order, bragging rights and, most importantly, league points.

‘Both teams need the points for different reasons.

‘I am almost more nervous about this game than any other and we cannot afford to slip up.

‘They beat us in the Hampshire Cup final last season and we know that this is going to be a hard game.

‘Selection will be critical and it is important on occasions like this that you have a few wise old heads out there.

‘It is the final game before the Christmas break and we want to go into the new year top of the table.

‘That would be the best Christmas present for me.’