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Portsmouth clash is an exciting and interesting game – Ward

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 21, 2013

By BEN JOHNSON

Rovers

Rovers

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Bristol Rovers are aiming to reel in Portsmouth and lift themselves away from League Two's bottom sides at the Memorial Stadium today.

Rovers, who are a point clear of the two relegation places, could draw level on points with struggling Portsmouth if they could claim a victory.

The Fratton Park outfit – who were in the Premier League as recently as 2010 – are without a win in their last eight games and have recently appointed Richie Barker to succeed Guy Whittingham at the helm.

Rovers manager John Ward said: "It is an all-ticket game, all seats are sold out, so there is a good atmosphere, but there always is at the Mem.

"I think there is a really good pre-Christmas football match in prospect. They are seen as a big club and we are the home team to try to take them on and try to beat them.

"It is a big game – and the league positions of the two clubs make it all the more exciting and interesting.

"They have a new manger in, he had his first game last week and wasn't successful, so he may want to change things.

"Come three o'clock both sets of players will have a good go at it."

Centre-back Tom Lockyer is suspended after receiving his fifth booking of the season during the abandoned FA Cup tie at Crawley on Wednesday.

Ward said: "Mark McChrystal comes into the reckoning, but he hasn't played for a little while, but he is a man of experience and knowledge, and if he feels he has a chance, he will be involved in the squad.

"There's also Pat Keary, who came on at Mansfield and did exceptionally well on his debut for the club.

"It is a key position, so we will try to get it right. The rest of the team I pretty much know what I want to do because everyone else is fine at the moment.

"It is hard to assess where Portsmouth are because they have a manager who has only been in place for a couple of weeks.

"What we do know is that they lost their game at home to Newport last weekend and that will sting. Portsmouth will be fired up, but my team will respond to that as well because they have done well in games against the so-called bigger clubs."

The congested fixture list offers Ward's side an ideal opportunity to lift themselves away from the danger zone, and skipper Tom Parkes said: "We have fewer points now than we did at this stage last season, but I think we are a much more confident side than we were at that time.

"I don't think we (the players) have to worry about what is being said about where we are in the league table because if we concentrate on getting our game right the points we need will definitely follow.

"I would say we are entering the most important part of the season. It is about grinding out results because the games comer thick and fast and the complexion of our season can change over the course of a week."

Rovers will play their rearranged FA Cup replay against Crawley on January 4. Crawley have announced reduced ticket prices for the game and these will be £5 (adults) and £3 (concessions).

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