City’s charge from bottom to top continued apace with a convincing 3-0 win over fellow in-form side Colchester, perhaps a vital win to ensure confidence remains high as a difficult run of games continues with a visit to one of the promotion favourites. With the loan of Jack Stacey having been extended to the end of the season Paul Tisdale may be tempted to stick to the same starting eleven for the third successive game. This would mean those pressing for a start, such as Liam McAlinden, will need to remain patient.
With all their financial problems that caused them to sink from Premier League to basement now seemingly behind them, Portsmouth were installed as reasonably short-priced favourites to finally start climbing back up the leagues, and a run of just two defeats in the league since the end of October has installed Paul Cook’s side firmly in the playoff picture and within one win of stuttering Carlisle in the third automatic spot. Pompey did suffer a defeat a couple of matches ago in going down 3-1 to leaders Doncaster before the Sky cameras, but bounced back with a 2-1 win over relegation threatened Leyton Orient last weekend. Stability has been key – Cook has only had to call upon 22 players in the league so far, while four players have started every match and a further player has only missed one game. As with City the goals have been quite evenly spread with two players (Chaplin and Roberts) on seven league goals and Baker on six. Goalkeeper David Forde has plenty of higher level experience and will be hard to beat.
The reverse fixture in August left a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth as City went down 1-0 to a late, disputed Gary Roberts penalty before having a clearer penalty turned down by the not 12 year old referee Gavin Ward. Last season’s fixture at Fratton Park was a great example of how to set up to absorb pressure and play on the counter as City went 2-0 up through Wheeler and Davies before Portsmouth ensured late nerves with another controversial goal, the referee missing a handball as the Portsmouth player scooped the ball up thinking he’d won a free kick before in the confusion Roberts fired home. That win was only City’s third league victory over Portsmouth, who themselves have won 12 (eight draws).
The referee for this game is:-
Referee: Dean Whitestone
Assistant Referees: Rob Smith and Stuart Butler
Fourth Official Mark Pottage
Dean Whitestone is a familiar face at St James Park having refereed Exeter games back to 2003. A list of Exeter games he’s refereed can be found at http://www.grecians.co.uk/wordpress/?s=whitestone
The last time we played Portsmouth, at Fratton Park, was September 2015, details here.
Tisdale’s thoughts ahead of the Pompey game – http://www.exetercityfc.co.uk/news/article/2016-17/portsmouth-v-exeter-city-match-preview-3539274.aspx