Is it reasonable to describe Charlton and Portsmouth as "sleeping giants"? Perhaps that is stretching it a bit. Maybe "a couple of big fellers having a nap" is nearer the mark. Either way, Saturday's encounter at The Valley does have the feel of a real match about it.
To some extent it is because of the history. The two clubs have been playing league matches against each at The Valley and Fratton Park since February 1922 when Portsmouth won at both grounds in the space of a week. In fact it took nine games and fourteen years before Charlton prevailed - eventually winning 1-0 away in December 1936. We have encountered them in 101 league games over the ninety nine years and Portsmouth so far have the upper hand with 45 wins to 37.
Recent history, however, tells a different story. Charlton's record against Pompey over the last thirty years is quite phenomenal with 20 league wins, just 6 defeats and three draws. At Fratton Park we have been all but invincible with eight wins in the last ten but it hasn't been quite such plain sailing at The Valley. We won the last game 2-1 with goals from Aribo and Taylor on the way to promotion but a Magennis own goal spoiled the Back to The Valley celebrations in December 2017 and Lomano Tresor Lua Lua gave the visitors a 1-0 win in the previous game in The Premier League in 2006.
This is Portsmouth's fourth season in League One since their promotion in 2017. They have fallen at the play-off semi-final stage for the last two years - to Sunderland in 2019 and on penalties to Oxford last year. They arrive at The Valley one point above us but with two games in hand having just suffered two home defeats - 0-4 to Hull last weekend and 0-1 to Lincoln on Tuesday night. These games followed an impressive run which had seen them win five games out of six with a goals aggregate of 11-0. Despite this week's mishaps there is nevertheless every reason for Portsmouth to arrive with plenty of confidence as they have already won at Hull, Ipswich, Sunderland and Lincoln this season.
They have plenty of goal scoring power with John Marquis leading the way with twelve. Ronan Curtis, Marcus Harness and Tom Naylor have six each. Unfortunately, one player we won't be facing is centre half Jack Whatmough who managed two own goals against Hull and a first half sending off against Lincoln. Reeco Hackett-Fairchild (a surprise signing from Bromley last year) will also be absent - on loan currently at Southend.
There were a lot of good things in our team's performance at Milton Keynes on Tuesday but, as Lee Bowyer commented, they needed to look after the ball better in the second half and they might have been punished by better opponents. In attack we look a better squad than the one which prevailed at Fratton Park in October but we still seek continuity in defence. With Sunderland playing against Gillingham at 1pm on Saturday we might be out of the play-off places by the time we kick off but leap-frogging Portsmouth would be a great statement which would give us good reason to believe that we are not just fighting to hang on to sixth place.
You can purchase your stream of the game here:
The game is promoting Football v Homophobia and, as Lee Bowyer emphasised: "It doesn’t matter what your background is, this club always supports everybody, everybody is always welcome."