Can perfect pairings help Pompey overcome Burnley?
By Site reporter
Monday 24 Jan 2011 21:47:00
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Pompey’s two emergency partnerships look likely to get another chance to impress when ex-Fratton defender Eddie Howe returns south with Burnley on Tusday evening.

Boss Steve Cotterill has indicated his support for Ibrahima Sonko and Greg Halford in central defence, while Joel Ward and Hayden Mullins complemented each other well in midfield in the draw with Leeds.


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With no Aaron Mokoena again to face the Clarets, and Rithcie de Laet rated only 5-50 to recover from the knock that forced him out of the Leeds game, Sonko and Halford are likely to be paired with one another against Cotterill’s old team.

The same goes for Ward and Mullins, with Liam Lawrence of more use on the right and the only other midfielder in Cotterill’s sights, Ipswich’s David Norris, not yet recruited – even though it looks like he could be a Pompey player by the end of the window.

The Burnley clash, in which the Blues will seek their first home win since October 30, comes as Cotterill says he is encouraged by talks held with the owners over funding. He said of the meeting: 'It all went okay. I think there will be some help but it may not be tomorrow. We may get a couple of players in before the end of the window, if we get lucky with something.

'But I think the help is going to come towards the end of the season, probably when money will be freed up from players being out of contract. I think there will be some help coming but I don't see anything coming over the hill just now. But I do think they are going to help me rebuild the club.’

For now, then, Cotterill must go with what he’s got and that will mean few changes from the side who drew with Leeds.

Cotterill praised Sonko and Halford and said: ‘We’ve had so many central defensive combinations this season it’s been unbelievable, and lots of changes is not the cornerstone for clean sheets.

‘But I thought Greg Halford and Ibrahima Sonko complemented each other well against Leeds. They didn’t give Leeds a look-in in the first half, when I thought we looked very good.

‘It’s a combination I’ve thought about since I saw a glimpse of it when they played together at Millwall in October. Ritchie De Laet is struggling. The chances of him playing are only 50/50 at the moment. He tweaked it towards the end of the first half against Leeds. At the moment we don’t know if it’s a groin strain or a muscle spasm in the groin area. We’ll learn more in the 24 hours leading up to the game.

‘We need to get a couple over the line before the end of this transfer window, not just because we’re building this club for the future but because we want to do as well as we can in our remaining 20 games. We need new faces because this is the lightest we’ve been.’

Also missing through suspension is Dave Kitson, who sits out the last of his three-game ban and will be available for the visit to QPR next Tuesday.

John Utaka has been suffering from a hamstring strain but it didn’t seem to trouble him too much against Leeds.

For Burnley, Question Time panelist Clarke Carlisle faces a late fitness test ahead of the game, so Andre Bikey is standing by.

You have to go back close to 30 years to find Burnley’s last win at Fratton – that was in the third division in October 1981. In fact their win over Pompey in the return fixture at Turf Moor that was season was their last victory over us.

Since then, home highlights in their visits to Fratton are topped by Svetoslav Todorov’s promotion-clinching winner against them in 2003. Last season it was 2-0 to Pompey at Fratton and 2-1 at Burnley the day after the Blues had gone into administration.

Our prediction: 2-0

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