What a difference a win makes – the atmosphere that at times threatened to turn toxic was instead jubilant at the final whistle on Boxing Day thanks to a goal from “one of our own” Sonny Cox and a justice done penalty save from Vil Sinisalo deep into injury time after a dreadful refereeing decision. City will therefore have taken massive heart from the performance and victory ahead of another game in the busy Christmas schedule with the visit of the team currently sitting comfortably top of the division despite suffering a rare defeat in their last outing.
A City match wouldn’t be a City match without an early injury, and so it was against Wycombe with Yanic Wildschut limping off. Depending on the nature of the injury Gary Caldwell will again need to shuffle his pack with Kyle Taylor, James Scott or Harry Kite likely to deputise. Elsewhere Will Aimson came back into the side (albeit not as skipper) and was impressive in the place of Pierce Sweeney – who has to be managed carefully due to an ongoing niggle – Caldwell may decide to keep the same back line against Portsmouth as a result with Cheick Diabate in particular looking colossal since returning to the side.
Portsmouth’s summer business saw John Mousinho’s side installed amongst the promotion favourites, and Pompey have shown supreme form and consistency throughout the season to date to lead the table by four points. Mousinho will be slightly concerned, however, that their last three matches in league and EFL Trophy have seen them lose two and draw one, including their first away defeat of the season at Matt Taylor’s Bristol Rovers on Boxing Day. Unlike City, Portsmouth have had no trouble finding the net, with Colby Bishop leading the way with 12 goals. Elsewhere Marlon Pack remains a creative force, while Jack Sparkes has become a regular starter on the left and will no doubt be out to impress against the club he left in the summer after a long association dating back to childhood.
The reverse fixture at Fratton Park was played out in front of the Sky cameras who were treated to an entertaining 1-0 win for the hosts against a spirited City side, Bishop scoring in the second half. Portsmouth’s visit to City last season was on Boxing Day and finished in a “good” 0-0 draw that while without goals was not without entertainment. Portsmouth’s win extended their league head to head lead to 14-4, nine matches finishing level. In fact, City haven’t won a league fixture against Portsmouth at the Park since 1981.
Interview with Vil Sinisalo
The match officials for this game will be:-
Referee: Sunny Singh Gill
Assistant Referee: Justin Amey and Stuart Butler
Fourth Official : Lewis Sandoe
Sunny refereed the 2-0 defeat away at Derby in October, he also took charge of the home game against Lincoln City last season which City won 2-1 but had Alex Hartridge sent off.