Before we look at the game, could you give us a memory from previous games against the Gas?
The last Bristol Rovers vs Pompey game at the Memorial Stadium lives in my memory for all the wrong reasons. Standing in torrential rain watching the Blues throw away a 2 goal lead from set-pieces perfectly encapsulated what Portsmouth’s 2019/2020 was like.
Pompey had thrown away leads repeatedly all season and culminated in an embarrassing playoff defeat. The side is trying to shake off that losing culture and a new tactical shape and formation has certainly helped.
How has your season been going so far?
Apart from a poor start, Pompey have been very good this season. Since October’s win against Gillingham, the Blues have mostly been playing a pressing and aggressive 4-4-2 formation and it’s getting the best out of the teams offensive talents.
The only problem is the fine margins and how competitive League One is. A couple of poor results and Pompey could end up in the playoffs instead of automatic promotion.
And what would you say your ambitions are for the rest of the campaign?
Promotion or bust, it’s that simple. Eleven players are out of contract alongside Kenny Jackett himself and his staff.
It is all set up to be Kenny Jackett’s last chance to get the Blues promoted. If he fails, his contract probably won’t be renewed and the side would have to be rebuilt.
How is your form coming into the game?
Losing two promotion six-pointers against Hull City and Lincoln City were gutting but getting seven points out of a possible nine afterwards is reasonable.
But like I said earlier, the margins are so small that to some, seven points is not enough. Even though the form is mixed, Pompey have a mentally strong squad so should be prepared for every game.
How do you think you’ll setup for our game?
As Kenny Jackett will consider Pompey favourites for the game, he’ll set up with a 4-4-2 formation and look to aggresively press from kick off and cause mistakes in Rovers defence.
The front four will be fluid and look to consistently break up play while the full-backs support the wide areas when needed and the centre-midfielders cover for them.
Any weak links in your side?
Probably a harsh one, but Jack Whatmough. He’s been out of the side for the last three games after a suspension with James Bolton, normally a right-back, covering his spot at centre-back.
Who are your standout players?
Tom Naylor – CM: Captain of the side and the most noticeable player if he is not in the side. His defensive prowess gives the front-four so much freedom and regularly creates counter-attacking opportunities from midfield.
Ronan Curtis – LW: Curtis is the forward to watch if he plays. He’s getting back into form after recovering from Covid and also looks like he’ll start as a striker alongside John Marquis, to take advantage of his pace, ability to cut inside on his right foot and shoot and press high against opposition defenders.
3-0 Portsmouth win. I see Pompey being ruthless against every opponent from now until the end of the season and I do not see them dropping many points against sides lower in the table.
Where do you think you’ll be come the end of the season?
As I said, the margins are so small that even losing one game is the difference between the automatic places and the playoffs, which I do not trust Portsmouth of winning. 3rd place, but hopefully I’m wrong.