BIG MATCH PREVIEW
Sleeping giants and play-off rivals Portsmouth will provide a stiff test for Mansfield Town at what should be a packed One Call Stadium on Saturday.
Pompey were hoping to be in the forefront of the promotion race this season but their former Chesterfield boss Paul Cook this week conceded the top three places may now be beyond them and they are going to have to scrap it out for a place in the play-offs.
Last weekend they did themselves no favours as they went down 3-0 at home to Newport County.
Stags also need to get back on track after a third successive 1-0 defeat, this time at play-off chasing Bristol Rovers. So both sides are smarting and desperate to get a win with just 10 games left to play.
Pompey will bring a sizeable following and, with both sets of fans getting on well, there will be a big social gathering away from the on-field action.
With no goals in 276 minutes of football and Adi Yussuf serving a five game ban, Stags have brought in 6ft 5ins striker Mani Dieseruvwe from Chesterfield on loan and he is expected to make a debut alongside Matt Green.
Past meetings, rare as they have been, have often ended in draws.
Pompey won a Carling Cup fixture at Mansfield in 2006. But, otherwise, the seven League meetings have ended in five draws and a win apiece.
Click HERE to see video highlights of last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at Bristol Rovers for Stags
Click HERE to read Chad’s Rovers v Stags match report
Click HERE to hear Paul Cook’s thoughts on Portsmouth’s 3-0 home defeat by Newport County
STAGS TEAM NEWS
Adam Murray can confidently start with two up front with the arrival on loan of Chesterfield target man Mani Dieseruvwe to take some pressure off Matt Green.
He may also have an U21 Premier League striker on the bench if a second loan bid comes off in time.
Defender Lee Collins turned in a man of the match display as holding midfielder last week so is likely to stay in that unfamiliar role.
Otherwise, Murray’s main headaches will be who to play in his three man midfield with a wealth of riches to select from.
Adi Yussuf continues his five-game ban for public urination at Plymouth Argyle.
POSSIBLE STAGS STARTING XI (4-1-3-2): Shearer; Alfei, Pearce, Tafazolli, Benning; Collins; Clements, Baxendale, Blair; Dieseruvwe, Green.
POMPEY TEAM NEWS
Former Spirite star Gary Roberts will miss the match through a one-match ban following his sending off in the defeat to Newport.
That could open the door for Michael Smith to return as the lone striker, with top scorer Marc McNulty operating behind him. Alternatively, Adam McGurk could come into the side.
Gareth Evans is expected to recover from the injury to his left ankle which forced him off at half-time against Newport.
A definite absence is keeper Brian Murphy, who remains sidelined with a calf injury, while former Stags loanee right back Kieron Freeman is a doubt.
POSSIBLE POMPEY STARTING XI: 4-2-3-1
Fulton; Davies, Burgess, Webster, Stevens; Hollands, Doyle; Evans, McNulty, Bennett; Smith.
KEY BATTLE: MAL BENNING v BEN DAVIES
Ben Davies has been a Pompey golden oldie this season - and a firm contender for the Player of the Year stakes.
A former team-mate of skipper Michael Doyle’s at Sheffield United, the versatile performer has been used as an attacking right-back by Paul Cook, becoming a key figure, and likely to force Stags left back Mal Benning to have to be careful of his own bursts forward.
The ex-Notts County and Derby County star’s energy down the right has seen him create plenty of goals, while he is the regular corner taker. Yet Davies also defends superbly and is rarely beaten in a one versus one.
A whole-hearted, committed player, he is extremely popular with the fans.
Click HERE to see a video interview with Ben Davies
POMPEY ONE TO WATCH:
Michael Doyle is the skipper and the engine room of Cook’s side and has been an outstanding performer throughout the campaign.
A true captain, he drives his team, also leading by example with his work-rate, energy and a willingness to physically stand up to the opposition.
In his previous away match at Accrington, a stunning 25-yard left-foot volley was his first goal for the club - and a contender for goal of the season.
The 34-year-old was part of the Sheffield United side which reached the League One play-offs last term and he has been just as influential at Fratton Park.
Click HERE to see a video of Michael Doyle talking about joining Pompey last summer
OPPOSITION MANAGER: PAUL COOK
Former Chesterfield boss Paul Cook has come in and revitalised the club, playing some of the finest football supporters have witnessed since the golden Premier League days.
A number of managers have turned out to be bad appointments in recent times, yet Cook arrived at Fratton Park with a proven track record of promotion and an excellent knowledge of the lower divisions.
With a passing philosophy, stemming from the central defenders, his favoured 4-2-3-1 system has been great to watch during the majority of games, producing some notable results.
Now the Fratton faithful are hoping he can steer the Blues into the automatic promotion spots during the final 10 matches of the season.
Click HERE to see a video of Paul Cook talking about managing a club the size of Portsmouth and how hard it was to leave Chesterfield.
POMPEY SEASON SO FAR
Paul Cook and the club have made no secret this year’s target is automatic promotion following two awful campaigns in League Two.
Earlier this season Pompey topped the table, while have never slipped out of the top eight, yet inconsistency has been a crippling problem.
They have failed to win more than two league games in a row, yet have defeated Derby and Ipswich in cup competitions this season.
On their day, Pompey are undoubtedly one of the best sides in the division, winning at Northampton, Bristol Rovers, Accrington and Plymouth. But when they are bad, they are bad.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 24th 2015: PORTSMOUTH 0, MANSFIELD TOWN 0
It was second against fourth in the game of the day in League Two and Mansfield produced a very solid display to earn a point at Portsmouth. Portsmouth had more of the possession but a superb display in particular from the Stags defence restricted the home side to only a few clear cut chances.
Lee Collins and Ryan Tafazolli were excellent at the heart of the Stags defence, and one challenge by Collins on Stevens just as Stevens was about to shoot was quite outstanding.
Nicky Hunt and Blair Adams also produced very fine displays either side of the central defenders, with Hunt producing one fine block and Adams clearing off the line from a shot from Chaplin which was about as close as Portsmouth came.
Behind the back four, Brian Jensen made one very good save, tipping over a shot from Davies, but he only had one other save to make which was a shot from Stevens that was straight at him.
Once again Mansfield demonstrated today that we are extremely hard to beat and the accolade of conceding the equal fewest number of goals in League Two this season is well-earned.
In truth Mansfield created little in terms of goalscoring opportunities today but the midfield and forward line worked extremely hard to keep hold of the ball. The Stags are now just a point behind the automatic promotion places, though drop one place to fifth.
To read a full report by Martin Shaw click HERE
Click HERE to see video highlights from the game
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Pompey info supplied by Neil Allen of the PORTSMOUTH NEWS