Hartlepool vs Portsmouth Preview
Pompey prepare for the biggest game of the season... if it goes ahead.
If the weather holds and the Victoria Park pitch is deemed playable tomorrow then Hartlepool United will host Portsmouth in a match where the loser will be all-but-relegated.
Pools boss John Hughes could have three players returning to his team on Saturday as midfielders Nathan Luscombe and Simon Walton and defender Paul Hartley all returned to training on Thursday.
Paul Benson missed last weekend's draw with Preston because of a virus but has recovered to take his place in the squad. Guy Whittingham may throw him straight back in the starting eleven but is likely to name an unchanged line up from Saturday.
There will be a pitch inspection at 8am tomorrow to determine if the match will be played or not. There has been heavy rain in Hartlepool today and there is more expected tomorrow.
Should the match be played, the conditions will be awful and the football is likely to be even worse. A true relegation six-pointer indeed.
Pompey's opponents have won one game all season (a 2-0 win over lowly Scunthorpe on October 1st) and have since failed to win in 21 (yes, twenty-one) matches since then.
Therefore, if Pompey fail to beat the rock bottom team in the league should tomorrow's match go ahead, then it really would be curtains for Guy Whittingham's men.
Whilst Pompey wouldn't be relegated if they fail to take three points tomorrow, there would simply be no hope left amongst even the most optimistic Blues fans who still believe that their team can beat the drop.
Without that belief, the remaining 23 matches of the season will simply be a waste of time with the inevitable outcome of relegation to League Two in May. Providing we still have a club to support, of course.
Hartlepool manager John Hughes has threatened to pull his team in for training on Christmas Day if they don't beat Pompey tomorrow whilst our own players have cancelled their Christmas party because they realise they don't deserve one following this season's struggles.
But they do have the chance to bring some much needed Christmas cheer to all Portsmouth fans with a win tomorrow that would keep the hopes of League One survival alive.
There are no excuses. Hartlepool's dire record speaks for itself and so it's time to end the ten game winless run and get our season back on track.
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: Scott FLINDERS
RB: Jordan RICHARDS
CB: Evan HORWOOD
CB: Sam COLLINS
LB: Jack BALDWIN
RM: Jonathan FRANKS
CM: Antony SWEENEY
CM: Ritchie HUMPHREYS
LM: Simon WALTON
CF: Steve HOWARD
CF: Charlie WYKE
GK: Simon EASTWOOD
RB: Mustapha DUMBUYA
CB: Ricardo ROCHA
CB: Gabor GYEPES
LB: Jon HARLEY
RM: Lee WILLIAMSON
CM: Johnny ERTL
CM: Brian HOWARD
LM: Scott ALLAN
CF: Izale McLEOD
CF: Jake JERVIS
Last Time: Hartlepool United 0 Portsmouth 3 (Division Four - 18/08/1979)
John McLoughlin, Colin Garwood and Steve Bryant all hit the net for Frank Burrows' men in this game as Pompey looked to get out of the bottom tier of English football at the second attempt.
Performances have improved recently but the pressure will be on to win this one as another draw will simply not be good enough. Unfortunately, I think a draw is the result that we're going to get if the game goes ahead.
Hartlepool United 1 Portsmouth 1
Source: Fratton Faithful
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