Portsmouth vs Crystal Palace Preview

21 February 2011 09:55
A season defining game at Fratton Park? Pompey take on Crystal Palace in a hugely important relegation six-pointer at Fratton Park tomorrow evening.Team NewsLiam Lawrence is a doubt after limping off on Saturday with a calf injury. Joel Ward is expected to play at right midfield if the Irishman can't make it and Jonathan Hogg returns from suspension and should go straight back into the starting eleven.Palace manager Dougie Freedman will check on the fitness of Alex Marrow, who missed the 1-0 home win over Sheffield United on Saturday. Edgar Davids no longer plays for the Eagles but star man Darren Ambrose should play against Pompey for the first time this season.The MatchTomorrow evening's game is the first of a run of home games against the other relegation strugglers. After the visit of Palace, the next four matches at Fratton Park are against Scunthorpe, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Preston.Thankfully, the last two wins against the two Yorkshire clubs have considerably eased the pressure on Steve Cotterill and his men but defeat tomorrow will see Pompey fans looking at that Championship table with thinner fingernails.On the flip side, and I don't want to seem too complacent here, but I believe that victory over Palace will virtually guarantee Pompey's Championship status. You'd think that we'd be able to scrape 9 points together from the remaining 14 games to reach the "magical" 50 point mark should we win tomorrow, especially as there would be 7 points between the two sides.However, this game may not be as easy as some may think. Whilst the Eagles have the worst away record in the Championship, they have improved somewhat since George Burley's dismissal, losing just one game under Dougie Freedman's stewardship.That run of form has co-incided with the return of Darren Ambrose who is clearly Palace's best player. Whoever plays alongside Mullins in the centre is going to need to keep him under wraps because he is capbale of special things, just see his volley against Sheffield United on Saturday for proof.The other player Pompey will need to pay special attention to is James Vaughan. The Everton loanee netted a hat-trick against us earlier in the season, even if that was down to some dubious defending/officiating but I'd back our "new and improved" defence to deal with him much better this time round.Our recent meetings with Palace have been memorable for one obscure reason or another so we could well have another memorable moment tomorrow as the stakes are high. The League cup meeting earlier in the season produced the longest penalty shootout I can remember as a Pompey fan, the last meeting in the league saw Tony Popovic score probably the best own goal I have ever seen and most fans will remember the 4-2 defeat at the end of the 00/01 season which saw Portsmouth's Division One status hanging by a thread.A defeat like that tomorrow wouldn't quite have the same consequences, but it would ensure that we'll all be nervously looking over our shoulders as the other relegation strugglers come to town in the coming weeks.Predicted Starting Line-UpsPompeyGK: Jamie ASHDOWNRB: Ritchie DE LAETCB: Greg HALFORDCB: Ricardo ROCHALB: Hermann HREIDARSSONRM: Joel WARDCM: Jonathan HOGGCM: Hayden MULLINSLM: David COTTERILLCF: David NUGENTCF: Dave KITSONPalaceGK: Julian SPERONIRB: Nathaniel CLYNECB: Dean MOXEYCB: Anthony GARDNERLB: David WRIGHTRM: Owen GARVANCM: Darren AMBROSECM: Neil DANNSLM: Kagisho DIKGACOICF: James VAUGHANCF: Wilfred ZAHALast Time: Portsmouth 1 Crystal Palace 1 [Portsmouth win 4-3 on penalties] (League Cup First Round - 24/08/2010)A Pompey team that contained Marc Wilson and Tommy Smith took the lead in the second half courtesy of David Nugent's curler but Ibrahima Sonko levelled late on for Palace after turning the ball into his own net.After extra time ended goalless, a frantic penalty shootout went to sudden death due to a mixture of poor spot kicks and excellent goalkeeping. In the end, Adam Barrett's spot kick was saved and Richard Hughes put Pompey into the next round, where we would lose to Leicester.My PredictionDefeat wouldn't be the end of the world thanks to the two recent wins, but a victory would give the whole atmosphere around the club a massive lift. Whilst we tend to do things the hard way (especially against Palace), I think we'll win a tight game here.Portsmouth 2 Crystal Palace 1


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