26.12.23 Pompey MP

Rovers come into this sold-out Boxing Day fixture against the league leaders looking to bounce back from a tough afternoon three days ago in Blackpool.


In a performance that manager Matt Taylor described as ‘inexperienced’, Rovers were frustrated by a well-drilled Blackpool defence, and an even more challenging test for the team comes in the form of the league leaders Portsmouth who they have not beaten since February 2021.


The two teams shared the points in their last clash on matchday 1, Rovers putting in an excellent display before a painful stoppage-time equaliser denied them a first win at Fratton Park since 1975.


Since then, mixed results have left Rovers in 12th position and struggling for consistency as we come to the close of the calendar year, with the last time the team put consecutive league wins together being in September.


In stark contrast, Portsmouth have lost just once all season and find themselves 5 points clear at the top of the League One table, seemingly charging towards promotion. However, their last 2 games have yielded difficult results, with a 1-1 draw at home against Fleetwood Town and the end of their EFL Trophy campaign with a 5-2 defeat to AFC Wimbledon.


The Memorial Stadium has been somewhat of a fortress for Rovers this season, with their last defeat coming at the end of August, followed by a 7-match undefeated streak at home taking 13 points from a possible 21.


This respectable home form today faces the imperious away form of Portsmouth, who have not lost away from home since March, winning 7 of their 10 away matches this season (D3) on their march towards the League One title. Both teams will have the desire to extend their respective streaks, and in front of a bouncing Boxing Day Memorial Stadium crowd, they will have an excellent stage upon which to engage.


Bristol Rovers are naming a relatively unchanged team from the one that suffered a 3-1 loss to Blackpool on the 23rd, with the only difference being Josh Grant dropping out of the squad and James Wilson coming back into the centre of defence after recovering from illness. John Marquis continues to lead the line after scoring 3 goals in his last 3 games, and goalkeeper Matthew Cox remains between the posts despite a turbulent period for the 20-year-old.

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