Timely return for winger as Portsmouth target away glory

Curtis Barnes is back in the frame for Portsmouth. Picture: Mick Young
Curtis Barnes is back in the frame for Portsmouth. Picture: Mick Young

Portsmouth out to turn tables on Cranleighans

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Flying winger Curtis Barnes makes a welcome return for Portsmouth in their vital London two south west relegation battle at Old Alleynians tomorrow.

Barnes was unavailable for the home defeat by Winchester which left the Rugby Camp outfit third from bottom and two points behind their hosts.

The 20-year-old has struggled with tonsilitis all week but is expected to shake it off in time to play.

With veteran winger Matt Gronow missing due to a stomach injury, the reappearance of Barnes could not have come at a better time.

First-team manager Nigel Morgan said: ‘Curtis has a lot of pace and is a good finisher.

‘Having him back adds to our fire power in what is a very important game.

‘A win would see us leapfrog above them and out of the relegation places.’

Portsmouth have been badly hit by a series of injuries to their forwards, with Darren Crabb, Ian Douglas and Ian Thatcher all ruled out.

Centre Dan Gates is away, which leaves them forced to reshuffle ahead of a crucial contest.

Will Phillips has provided a boost with his return to the front row, and experienced centre Gareth Richards continues following his long-term injury.

‘It is never easy going to play Alleynians at Dulwich,’ said Morgan.

‘Earlier in the season we beat them well but they are a totally different proposition at their place.

‘We have to negotiate the South Circular, which can be frustrating, and then come to terms with a difficult pitch.

‘It is important we put all those distractions out of our mind and concentrate on the task in hand.

‘Although we lost last week, our forwards did well and dominated the set-pieces.

‘If we are able to do the same again then we stand every chance of getting the result we need.’

Elsewhere, United Services are on a revenge mission against Hampshire one leaders Andover at Burnaby Road.

Third-placed Services lost 8-5 to their visitors earlier in the season and are keen to turn the tables and boost their own promotion challenge.

‘We had chances to win at their place and hopefully we have learned from that,’ said director of rugby Simon Burns.

‘I feel we have a pack of forwards who are capable of dominating them up front.

‘It is important we win our final four games if we are to maintain our aspirations of going up.’

In Hampshire two, 
Fareham Heathens host basement-club Alresford at Cams Alders.

Leaders Petersfield travel to Stoneham, while Southsea Nomads host Fawley at Furze Lane.