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Portsmouth vs Southampton Preview
The talking is almost over, let battle commence!
Sunday, April 24th 2005 was a day that I nor any other Pompey will ever forget. Six-and-a-half years later, we will once again be wishing for another unforgettable triumph over our arch rivals.
Michael Appleton is sweating over the fitness of Luke Varney who was injured in a collision with Burnley's goalkeeper last week with the latest signs showing that he won't make it.
However, Liam Lawrence is back to full fitness and Hermann Hreidarsson has also recovered from his long-term injury and is available for selection.
Nigel Adkins is hoping to have Kelvin Davis fit again so he doesn't have to rely on bumbling Bartosz Bialkowski to keep goal after his error strewn performance against Blackpool last week.
Richard Chaplow remains on the sidelines whilst Radhi Jaidi, David Connolly and Dan Seaborne are all out with long term injuries.
Much has been said by both Pompey and Saints fans ahead of Sunday's encounter but now it is time for the players to do the business on the pitch.
Last month I walked away from Vicarage Road following a woeful 2-0 defeat to Watford thinking that Southampton were going to destroy us when derby day arrived but my thoughts are much different now.
Michael Appleton has changed things at Pompey and we're now playing some good football and more importantly, winning games too. In contrast, our friends down the road have wobbled after such an impressive start to the season and although they remain top of the Championship, I feel they are vulnerable.
The form book is supposed to be thrown out of the window for derby games but you can't ignore that Southampton have lost their last two away games to two poor sides in Doncaster and Bristol City. Couple that with our unbeaten home run and our general style of play improving and we can't be blamed for feeling confident ahead of this one.
Experience is going to play a big part in this match and this is where we trump our rivals. This will be the first time that the majority of Southampton's players will have played in a derby game quite like this one.
I'm never usually one for playing up how the fans can play a part in the match but if we can make Fratton Park intimidating for them and give them as much stick as we can, it may well put them off.
It won't matter too much if Kelvin Davis is declared fit enough to play on Sunday. He has some bad memories of games against Pompey and I remember fondly the time when he tackled his own defender to let Matt Taylor score from two yards - and then be lobbed by him from 40 soon afterwards.
He might have been more impressive in a Stains shirt but he is error prone much like Bialkowski and I hope the home fans will remind him of this.
Southampton's full backs also lack any real pace and so hopefully Erik Huseklepp (and Luke Varney if fit) can use his pace to terrorise them and put balls in the box for Dave Kitson to do something with. Who knows? Maybe David Norris can be teed up for another long range strike.
Of course, Nigel Adkins' men are not top of the league for no reason and have the ability to play some quick passing football that the Pompey defence will be alert to.
The majority of their play goes through Rickie Lambert, a man who isn't just the top scorer in the division but can also hold the ball up and create chances for others. He is their most dangerous player and needs to be kept in check at all times.
If Lambert can be rendered ineffective then there are still the likes of Adam Lallana who will cause problems for us, but I believe the best way of defending against them is to stay on the attack and close them down as soon as they get possession.
I am expecting a lively affair and due to a few of the players being local lads who know all about the rivalry we can expect this one to get heated.
Both managers have called for calm but the atmosphere will be so fervent it would not surprise me if there is a red card in the game. Mark Halsey has been appointed for this match and he is definitely one of the better referees in the country, so hopefully he'll imply some common sense when Jason Pearce inevitably "mistimes" a challenge or two.
Finally, if I were Michael Appleton before the game I would tell the players that this game presents an opportunity to become a cult hero and maybe even a legend.
The name Quincy Owusu-Abeyie will be forgotten by the vast majority of the football world but he will always be etched into Portsmouth folklore simply because he scored a goal at St. Mary's Stadium for us two years ago.
And whilst Lomana LuaLua looked overweight and a shadow of his former self last week when playing for Blackpool, he will always be remembered by us as the man who "scored twice against Scummers" rather than being lazy and always being caught offside.
New heroes may well be talked about for generations to come after this Sunday. Hopefully we'll be the ones bragging and toasting special moments as Christmas comes early for every Pompey fan, with Saints fans having to endure a more miserable festive period.
Play Up Pompey!
Predicted Starting Line-Ups
GK: Stephen HENDERSON
RB: Greg HALFORD
CB: Jason PEARCE
CB: Ricardo ROCHA
LB: Joe MATTOCK
DM: Hayden MULLINS
DM: George THORNE
RM: Joel WARD
CM: David NORRIS
LM: Erik HUSEKLEPP
CF: Dave KITSON
GK: Kelvin DAVIS
RB: Frazer RICHARDSON
CB: Jos HOOIVELD
CB: Jose FONTE
LB: Dan HARDING
RM: Danny BUTTERFIELD
CM: Dean HAMMOND
CM: Morgan SCHNEIDERLIN
LM: Adam LALLANA
CF: GULY Do Prado
CF: Rickie LAMBERT
Last Time: Portsmouth 4 Southampton 1 (Premier League - 24/04/2005)
What more can be said about this demolition derby? The backdrop had been set, Harry Redknapp, Jim Smith, Kevin Bond and Nigel Quashie would return to Fratton Park after walking out on us whilst victory would guarantee that Portsmouth would finish above Southampton for the first time in 40 years, leaving them staring relegation in the face.
What followed in the 28 minutes after kick-off was simply sensational. LuaLua was taken out in thebox by Antti Niemi (who should have been sent off), leaving Yakubu to score a penalty after just four minutes.
Arjan De Zeeuw scored the second after heading in Patrik Berger's free kick and although Henri Camara pulled one back, some terrible goalkeeping from Niemi saw Lomana LuaLua score twice, injuring himself in the process.
A jubilant Fratton Park would then taunt their arch rivals for the majority of the game, singing the chorus of Amarillo as the despondent Saints couldn't get the ball. Quashie pleased the home crowd with one of his trademark balloons whilst Diomansy Kamara might have had a hat trick if he knew where the goal was.
To this day, this match is my favourite Pompey game of all time. Alain Perrin may have been a terrible manager for us but he will be remembered by us for orchestrating our best ever win over those in red and white. (Hopefully that will change on Sunday!)
I'm quietly confident that we'll get the job done on Sunday. They may be a better team than us but our experience will be vital as I think some of their players will wilt under the pressure of the south coast derby.
It'll be tight, expect quite a few bookings and heated exchanges but when that final whistle blows, I believe we'll be the ones celebrating.
Portsmouth 2 Southampton 1
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