Former Premier League sides Rovers and Pompey square up

By James Larsson

On April 3 2010 reigning FA Cup champions Portsmouth were weeks away from another cup final. They faced 10th-placed Blackburn in the Premier League, champions of the competition in 1995.

The sides played out a goalless draw as Portsmouth were relegated from the division that season and Rovers followed them out of the league two years later.

For both sides, bleak years followed. But this season as the two sides are separated in League One on goal difference alone,  there is a feeling of optimism in both camps as they bid to return to the heights they were once at.

After inconsistent starts to the season, Rovers and Pompey sit just two points of the play-offs. The visitors have won three of their last five and are looking to get back to winnings ways after a disappointing mid-week defeat away at Doncaster.

Rovers, who are two games without a win, will be looking to get back to their late August/early September form when they won four on the spin.

Pompey will be buoyed by the likely return of top scorer Brett Pitman, who returns from surgery which removed floating bones in his knee. Manager Kenny Jackett said: “‘If he is okay, I wouldn’t have any qualms about putting him straight back in. I would play him.”

Pompey have still managed to find goals during Pitman’s absence with Oli Hawkins finding the net on three occasions. In the same interview, Jackett was delighted with Pompey’s attacking arsenal, saying: “If you are looking at the front-four positions there are quite a few options with established players.

For Rovers, Correy Evans and Paul Downing could make a return. With only 16 goals this season, finding the net has been the big issue for the home side, who have scored as many as local rivals Bury who sit in the League One relegation zone.

Manager Tony Mowbray has analysed the lack of goals and said:  “We sat through and watched and there were varying reasons why they didn’t go in, bad first touch, not picking the man out in the box, lack of composure, shooting when players are stood in front of you rather than shifting and hitting it.

The fixture is a prestigious occasion for the Bennett family as brothers Kyle and Elliott will be facing each other.

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