Preview: Portsmouth vs Exeter City

City’s downfall this season appears to be home matches against sides at the bottom, although unlike against Cheltenham and Burton at least City emerged from the Forest Green match with a point ahead of a match against a side in turmoil and without a manager at time of writing. The transfer window is still open meaning speculation around line-ups could be out of date by Saturday, but Joe White made an encouraging debut off the bench last week and the Newcastle loanee may have played himself into contention for a start at Portsmouth. Rumours abound of a new centre back loan signing, although with Sam Stubbs close to a return this may lead to selection headaches for Gary Caldwell unless he faces losing a defender in the window.

Installed amongst the favourites for promotion, Portsmouth made a flying start but for some reason things have gone badly wrong – winless in the league since beating Forest Green on October 22nd, a 3-1 defeat to Charlton on New Years Day was enough for the board to spring into action, with the Cowley brothers being shown the door. At time of writing a new manager had yet to be appointed with a number of names in the frame, with Pompey suffering three defeats in three different competitions since parting company with the Cowleys – although one of these was at Spurs in the FA Cup and the other two were away to Bolton in the EFL Trophy and most recently in the league. One signing has been made in the window, with Bristol City’s Ryley Towler swapping a loan at AFC Wimbledon for another loan at Portsmouth. Colby Bishop, with 14 goals in all competitions, presents the main goal threat and with players like Marlon Pack pulling the strings there is plenty of quality for City to be aware of.

That City are playing Portsmouth early in the second half of the season is one of the curiosities of the fixture calendar given they provided City’s final opposition of the first half on Boxing Day – the game finished 0-0 but that was as much down to good goalkeeping as anything else (Jamal Blackman an easy choice of MOM) as both sides played on the front foot throughout. Leaving aside the heartbreaking 3-2 defeat in the EFL Trophy semi-final pre-Covid in 2020, City have a good recent record at Fratton Park, winning the last two league fixtures there, latterly David Wheeler giving City a 1-0 win in 2017. Portsmouth do, however, have a big league head to head lead with 12 wins to City’s four, that draw on Boxing Day making it nine in this fixture.

The match officials for this game will be:-

Referee: Ollie Yates
Assistant Referees: Paul Yates and Joseph Stokes
Fourth Official : Adrian Tranter

Ollie Yates last refereed Exeter last season when City lost 2-1 away at Mansfield.

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